World's Most Abundant Recycling Polymer for Plastics, Textiles, Medicine and Other Biotechnologies

World's Most Abundant Recycling Polymer for Plastics, Textiles, Medicine and Other Biotechnologies

At the end of April during my little video tour along the Cote d'Azur Beach in Antibes in very windy day with storm and rain that was very unusual to this region I felt the terrible smell all around the coastline. It reminded me a smell of ammonia gas coming out of grandmother's compost pit. 

Beach was full with ''gel like molluscs'' in deep blue grey color. I did not paid much attention to them as smell was not very pleasant and wind and crashing waves was more excited at this moment.
Just some weeks later walking on beach I was very surprised to find these already partly decomposed transparent ''mollusc'' skeletons. They very still a litlle bit flexible and remind me a biodegradative plastic. 
So I took some little amount of them at home and started my research. It seems strong wind was brought a lot of By-the-Wind Sailors on the seashores and they was thrown on shore and started decompose causing really terrible smell all around the beautiful Cote d’Azur beaches.These are little cousins of the jellyfish with very well organized polyps arranged under the float. Its latin name is Vellela Vellela (from hydrozoaire classe) and looks like a little sailing boats. In French language they even are named as Boats of Saint Peter. Main body of Vellela consist from Chitin what is a most abundant biopolymer on earth after cellulose.
 

Short look in chemistry and scientific books

Their skeleton of Vellela Vellella mainly contain Chitin, but also a little bit Calcium and tiny bit of other minerals. Skeletons was still flexible, but after certain cleaning procedures can be dried and powdered also for later use in wide range of applications.

Chitin is the second most important natural polymer, it is a derivative of glucose. It is a primary component of cells walls or all kind of fungi (little mushroom type organisms) the exosceletons, insects, anthropods specially crabs, lobsters, shrimps, molluscs and fishes etc.

Chitin was first isolated from a mushroom in 1811 by the French chemist Henri Braconnot who called it fungina, but it was in 1823 that Auguste Odier isolated the same insoluble residue and named it chitin from Greek χιτών meaning "tunic", by analogy between the protective shell of arthropods and the garment.

In 1859, Charles Rouget obtained a modified chitin by treatment with potash concentrated at high temperature; this product, which is soluble in acidic aqueous solutions was called chitosan by the German chemist Félix Hoppe-Seyler in 1894. Its structure was determined during his thesis by Albert Hofmann, specialist in natural products and militant pro-LSD.

Chitin-producing organisms are often pathogens in other species, so any further application of it should be chemically extracted than it could be successfully used in joint repairing, wound healing and even skin transplantation after heavy burns.

In medicine chitin has very wide applications where its self-assembling and bio repairing properties could be used.

Chitin could be used as great plant fertilizer to improve crop yield, it also is a good trigger for of plants self defense mechanisms agains different infections.

Chitin is very important a feed source for fishes.

Chitin is widely used by industry, chemically modified chitin include the formation of edible films and as an additive to thicken and stabilize foods.

More thinner and stronger paper can be obtained if chitin and chitosan is combined with cellulose in paper making.

Only in recent years a method of using Chitosan as a reproducible form of biodegradative plastic was introduced and now we see more and more of it in our daily lives.

More controversially, chitosan has been use to as diet supplement for weight loss as it limiting fat absorption.

There is more than 10,000 recent publications, including several books dealing with the multiple applications identified or potential of these compounds, considered as one of the most promising bioresources. The main areas explored are agriculture, food, medicine and surgery, biotechnology and textiles, cosmetics, water treatment, polymers and their applications.

 

The main body floating on the as blue cartilaginous oval shape ring filled with circular air filled tubes just like an air bed. It has 6 cm maximum length and the whole is surmounted by a translucent triangular sail, perpendicular to the float with sinuous patterns (3 cm high maximum).

photo from wikipedia

While blue pigment in living vellelas are true carotenoprotein and it participates in a variety of functions including protective coloration, photosensitivity, electron transport and enzymic activity, but mainly works as protection shield from UV sun rays to this little water creatures.

What is special about this true carotenoprotein? The natural astaxanthin, found as well in other sea could be extracted from it with very simple home chemical methods.

‘Only astaxanthin, astaxanthin esters and canthaxanthin have been unequivocally identified as carotenoid prosthetic groups of true carotenoproteins.’

De Denis Llewellyn Fox wrote in his book Biochromy,
Natural Coloration of Living Things.

When blue carotenoprotein rich seawater is heating, or alkaline or acid solutions is added, protein denaturation happen and solution turns pink (different color from dark red, orange, pink and even pale yellow could be obtained).

Color change was also obtained by heating. It means astaxanthin carotenoid pigment is liberated and could be extracted, powdered or dissolved in oil and used as food coloring agent (E161), cosmetic additive as very powerful anti-oxidant. Astaxanthin could be mixed with coconut oil and used as homemade anti-aging cream and is also used as ingredients by big cosmetic companies.

Chitosan extractionin water solution from Vellela Vellela

Rinse all well with distilled water. Look how light weight they are.

Circular air tubes in the body still are filled with air and it holds the them on a top of the water. With rinsing we clean bodies form organic waste in them and sand.

 

Boiling helps to get even more clean and sterile material before we start any extraction.

 

 

 

Extraction starts with HCl acid solution and blender till even mass is obtained.

 

 

At this stage solution looks like a thin glue.

 

Next step is acid neutralization with NaOH solution. OH ions are added to chitin in this process and chitosan is formed.

 

 

Reaction of neutralization appears as release of extra gases and it continues till reaction is completed.

When reaction is completed and desired pH is reached, we start rinsing with distilled water.

Rising can take lot of time and water and final product is light beige and very fluffy.

Applications of this material will follow soon.

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