Crab Shell to Chemicals!

A new route has been developed to transform chitin into acetic acid and pyrrole, which is selected as ACS Editor’s Choice and featured as the front cover of ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.

Global shellfishery waste generation is from 6 to 8 million metric tons annually. Chitin, as a major component in crustacean shells, is the second most abundant biopolymer on Earth, having the potential to supplement the lignocellulosic biomass resource for renewable chemicals. We established direct transformation of chitin and raw shrimp shells into acetic acid by a catalytic method using metal oxide and oxygen gas in basic water. A 38.1% yield of HAc was produced from chitin, which was more than a 2-fold increase compared with that from cellulose. Moreover, a 47.9% yield was directly obtained from crude shrimp shells. Another finding is that heterocyclic compound pyrrole was generated as the major nitrogen-containing (N-containing) product in the reaction system, which offers a potential chemical route for one-step pyrrole formation from a sustainable resource. The study opens new avenues to transform shellfishery waste into platform chemicals.


Yan Large

This work has been published in ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering on May 17, 2016 (10.1021/acssuschemeng.6b00767) as Front Cover

Corresponding author(s): Ning Yan ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )
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