Chitin and chitosan are natural biopolymers, wherein chitin is readily found in nature and chitosan is a deacetylated chitin derivative. Lobster, krill, crab shells, shrimp shells and mushrooms have chitin in abundance. Traditional markets for the compounds include agriculture and food, cosmetics, healthcare, pulp and paper, textiles and water treatment, among others. Glucosamine, a chitin derivative is used in nutraceutical formulations for the treatment of joint problems.
Despite the fact the functionality of chitin derivatives spans across various applications, ranging from dietary supplements to healthcare, these biopolymers remain an underutilized resource. Given the lack of awareness with respect to prospective applications of chitin and chitosan and absence of aggressive commercialization initiatives by industry participants, opportunities for the biopolymers remain significant in the long run. In the coming years, new applications are likely to emerge, diversifying the existing applications. The usability of chitin and its derivatives is expected to extend into various applications in healthcare (tumor treatment, medication for acute burns, anti-inflammatory medications, analgesics, hemostats), biotechnology (cell recovery, enzyme and cell immobilization), food & beverages (food flavoring agents, food preservatives, packaging material, flocculation agent), agrochemicals (preservation of seeds, composting accelerator) and more.