Process for producing high-quality chitin nanocrystals from natural source material


Chitin/Chitosan nanocrystals (ChNCs) produced from renewable source materials such as shrimp, lobster and crab shell wastes have multiple industrial and commercial applications. Key characteristics of this material include antimicrobial properties, high tensile strength, biocompatibility and biodegradability.

Based on the unique properties of ChNCs, the most promising applications include uses as antimicrobial agents, water treatment, food packaging and preservation.

With the potential to replace chemicals such as Triclosan, triclocarban, and chloroxylenol, commonly used for antibacterial and deodorant effect in consumer products, ChNCs provide an effective green renewable alternative.

Our unique process to produce ChNCs uses a method which results in better quality nanocrystals, higher yields and significant production benefits including scalability, safety, sustainability, and low cost. Additionally, the nanocrystals produced are surface carboxylated, which means that they are more reactive and flexible than the non-carboxylated nanocrystals formed by more conventional methods.

Technology transfer

This technology is available for licensing, or for further development through a collaborative research agreement with NRC. The business opportunity may be referred to by its NRC ID: 12621

Market applications

  • Bio-pesticides
  • Pharmaceutical development
  • Cosmetics
  • Treatment of industrial pollutants
  • Food production and preservation
  • Textiles
  • Plastic reinforcement
  • Aerogels
  • Biomedical applications
  • Antimicrobial applications

How it works

Chitin is an abundant semi-crystalline and renewable natural biomaterial that plays an important role in providing structure to the tissues of organisms such as crustaceans. Chitin/chitosan is a plentiful, eco-friendly and under-utilized resource.

Chitin nanocrystals (ChNCs ) have high tensile strength, are non-toxic and biodegradable, and have biocompatibility and anti-microbial properties. These features make this renewable resource valuable in a wide range of applications, including biopesticides, pharmaceutical development, cosmetics, treatment of industrial pollutants, food preservation, textiles, plastic reinforcement, and aerogels.

There are a number of complex methods for producing chitin nanocrystals from source materials like shrimp and crab waste, including acid hydrolysis and mechanical disruption. Known methods of acid hydrolysis require the use of expensive chemicals, while nanocrystals obtained through mechanical disruption require further processing with chemicals to remove impurities. A simpler, more cost-effective method for obtaining chitin nanocrystals is required to fully take advantage of their industrial potential.

To produce large amounts of chitin nanocrystals from various crustaceans such as shrimp and crab, a new proprietary process has been developed. The chitinous material may be processed directly from such sources using a process that has significant benefits in terms of scalability, safety, sustainability, and cost. The agent used in the process is very stable, and is a low cost alternative to the acids used in conventional production processes. The resulting nanocrystals are more uniform, more crystalline, and have smaller diameters and greater aspect ratios than chitin nanocrystals produced through conventional processes.

Chitin nanocrystals produced through the proprietary process are surface carboxylated, resulting in a more reactive and flexible compound than the non-carboxylated nanocrystals formed by more conventional methods. In addition, carboxylated chitin nanocrystals can undergo additional substitution reactions, which is useful for developing materials from nature that have specific functions.

Patent Pending


  • Simpler, more cost-effective process
  • Larger quantities of higher-quality chitin nanocrystals produced than through conventional methods
  • Scalability
  • Sustainability
  • Safety
  • Greater reactivity and flexibility through carboxylation


NRC file 12621: Patent pending.


To inquire about this technology, please contact:

Laurel O’Connor MBA, MIT
Acting Business Advisor, ACRD
Telephone: 306-975-4573

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