When mentioning chitin, many people first think of insects or crustaceans. However, the sugar, which is widely used in animal shells in nature, could soon be used in medicine, for example in wound dressing materials. This can be realized by a new method developed by researchers at the German Institutes of Textile and Fiber Research (DITF).
Whether crab or beetle: the carapace of many insects and crustaceans consists mainly of the polysaccharide chitin, which makes their shells and wings flexible. Although chitin is abundant and inexpensive in nature, it has so far played any role as a renewable raw material for the textile industry. This is about to change. Researchers at the German Institutes of Textile and Fiber Research (DITF) have developed an innovative method that enables the excellent combination of chitin as a biopolymer with naturally occurring cellulose. The chitin is extracted from crab shells, of which there is more than enough. "We first remove the proteins and minerals from the crustacean before we produce fibers from them," explains scientist Dr. Antje Ota, who is a researcher at the DITF's Biopolymer Materials Competence Centre and is a major contributor to the project.