Japanese scientist turns crab shells into nanofibers

Tokyo, Feb 16 (IANS) A Japanese scientist has developed a method to turn discarded crab shells into nanofibers, which can be used in food or beauty products, the media reported on Tuesday.

The project’s leader, Professor Shinsuke Ikufu of the chemistry and biotechnology department at Japan’s Tottori University, said that after seeing thousands of tonnes of crab shells discarded every year, he decided to develop a method to recycle and take advantage of the raw material, EFE news reported.

Ikufu subsequently designed a machine capable of processing chitin, a carbohydrate that makes up 20 to 30 percent of crab shell.

The use of water and acid helped to extract the chitin from the shells, which was then refined through the machine.

The results are fibers of around six nanometres in width.

As the process is, in principle, more economical than existing ones producing chitin nanofibers, Ikufu plans to create a company with the support of his university to commercialise the product.

Chitin is an attractive material for beauty products because it is effective in treating irritations, cuts or bruises. It is also used as a food additive.

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