Chitin is a very abundant polysaccharide that can be obtained from well-known marine sources (crustaceans), but also from terrestrial sources (mushrooms and insects). In the case where animal sources are considered, the material can be obtained by much abundant food or feeding waste. The extraction methodologies were not developed with similar technical readiness levels considering the different sources and the further conversion to chitin nanofibrils and chitosan is also under study, enabling the production of products differentiated for their macromolecular structures and morphology.Chitin nanofibrils from sea food sources were used in sanitary, cosmetic and packaging applications, where their anti-microbial properties and good biocompatibility were very useful. Chitin from mushrooms and sea food was used as starting material in possible coatings for cellulosic and bioplastic substrates. Currently chitin from insects (Hermetia Illucens) is also under study as well as the methodologies for extracting derivatives from it. Infrared analysis is an interesting technique to compare chitins, chitin nanofibrils and chitosan from different sources as well as electron microscopy for studying their morphology.
The derivatives of chitin, such as chitosan and chitin nanofibrils, show anti-microbial properties. Hence, their use in several applications, ranging from packaging to sanitary and cosmetics, can conjugate high performance novel products with a reduced environmental concern. The comparison between chitin derivatives from different sources is very useful to address the biopolymers to specific applications, including the agricultural sector.
While more and more applications for chitin derivatives will be developed, differences between them should be clarified and correlated to the sources, the methodologies of their production and their physical-chemical properties.