Characterization of chitin and chitosan derived from Hermetia illucens, a further step in a circular economy process
Micaela Triunfo, Elena Tafi, Anna Guarnieri, Rosanna Salvia, Carmen Scieuzo, Thomas Hahn, Susanne Zibek, Alessandro Gagliardini, Luca Panariello, Maria Beatrice Coltelli, Angela De Bonis & Patrizia Falabella
Due to their properties and applications, the growing demand for chitin and chitosan has stimulated the market to find more sustainable alternatives to the current commercial source (crustaceans). Bioconverter insects, such as Hermetia illucens, are the appropriate candidates, as chitin is a side stream of insect farms for feed applications. This is the first report on production and characterization of chitin and chitosan from different biomasses derived from H. illucens, valorizing the overproduced larvae in feed applications, the pupal exuviae and the dead adults. Pupal exuviae are the best biomass, both for chitin and chitosan yields and for their abundance and easy supply from insect farms. Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscope analysis revealed the similarity of insect-derived polymers to commercial ones in terms of purity and structural morphology, and therefore their suitability for industrial and biomedical applications. Its fibrillary nature makes H. illucens chitin suitable for producing fibrous manufacts after conversion to chitin nanofibrils, particularly adults-derived chitin, because of its high crystallinity. A great versatility emerged from the evaluation of the physicochemical properties of chitosan obtained from H. illucens, which presented a lower viscosity-average molecular weight and a high deacetylation degree, fostering its putative antimicrobial properties.
chitosan, antimicrobial properties