This is why (even) nothing of the blue crab is thrown away

Not only is it good to eat, but the shell of the invasive crustacean could become a crucial raw material for many industrial sectors

Blue crab: through water collected to ballast ships, the species has been accidentally introduced to numerous other parts of the world
The blue king crab, blue crab or blue crab is a decapod crustacean, specifically an aquatic animal of the Portunidae family: it is native to the Atlantic coasts of the American continent, but through the water collected to ballast ships the species was accidentally introduced in numerous other parts of the world, such as the North Sea, Baltic Sea, Black Sea, Mediterranean and Yellow Sea

We knew that nothing about pork is thrown away and we also knew that the meat of the infamous blue crab is good to eat.

Now we discover that even the shell of the latter can become an important resource.

This is confirmed by a team of researchers from the Ca' Foscari University of Venice, who recently patented the possibility of transforming chitin, a biopolymer in which the shell of the blue crab is incredibly rich, into intelligent nanomaterials.

They have functional properties useful in different fields of application, ranging from biomedicine, to biosustainable packaging, up to the restoration and conservation of writing material.

The blue crab is native to the western coasts of the Atlantic Ocean, from the American coast to Argentina, and lives along the entire coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

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One of the most invasive alien species in the Mediterranean and a huge challenge for the fishing industry

It is currently considered one of the most invasive alien species in the Mediterranean and represents a huge challenge for the fishing industry.

Its presence has created a real emergency due to the damage it causes to the fishermen's activity, because it cuts the fishing nets with its claws, feeds on the fry (the young fish) and destroys the mollusc farms such as mussels and clams, of which he seems extremely fond.

However, its "defensive" fishing does not find adequate commercial outlets, except for the minimal part destined for catering.

But, given that chitin is present in large quantities in the shell of the blue crab, the developments could be very interesting.

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Blue crab: after cellulose, chitin is the most abundant biopolymer present in nature
Chitin, discovered by the French chemist and pharmacist Henri Braconnot in 1811, is one of the main components of the exoskeleton of insects and other arthropods, of the cell wall of fungi, of the perisarch of hydroids and is also present in the epidermal cuticle, in other structures surfaces of many other invertebrates and in the cell wall of some marine microalgae: after cellulose, specifically, chitin is the most abundant biopolymer present in nature

Ca' Foscari University at the forefront to isolate chitin and intelligent nanomaterials

The research team from Ca' Foscari University, author of the patent, composed of Claudia Crestini, Professor of General and Inorganic Chemistry, Matteo Gigli, professor of Chemical Fundamentals of Technologies, and the doctoral student Daniele Massari of the Department of Molecular Sciences and Nanosystems, in collaboration with Professor Livia Visai and Doctor Nora Bloise of the University of Pavia, is currently focusing its efforts on the isolation of chitin.

The aim is to thus transform the crisis caused by the crab invasion into an unprecedented scientific, technological and economic opportunity.

This initiative could open new perspectives for industry and research in a constantly evolving sector.

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Blue crab: Claudia Crestini, Professor of General and Inorganic Chemistry, and Matteo Gigli, Professor of Chemical Foundations of Technologies, at Ca' Foscari
A research team from the Ca' Foscari University of Venice has authored a patent for the extraction of chitin from the shell of the blue crab: the authors are Claudia Crestini, Professor of General and Inorganic Chemistry, and Matteo Gigli, Professor of Chemical Fundamentals of Technologies

Claudia Crestini and Matteo Gigli: “New perspectives in the field of materials technology”

From a chemical point of view, chitin is a polysaccharide made up of glucose units containing amide functionality, and is completely biocompatible.

Professor Crestini and Professor Gigli, almost in unison, explained that through their recently patented process, “I am able to isolate and chemically modify a nanocrystalline fraction of chitin, a completely natural polymer”.

And yet: “This process is highly industrially scalable and offers a wide range of manufacturing possibilities. The resulting nanostructures were used to develop materials with extraordinarily innovative characteristics, paving the way for new perspectives in materials technology."

It will therefore be worth investigating in the future the opportunities generated by this patent from the study team of the Venetian university.

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The protagonists of scientific research will have to involve innovation entrepreneurs

These are opportunities that could become reality if the protagonists of scientific research are able to involve entrepreneurs interested in innovation.

In particular, small companies, those whose number of employees varies between 10 and 50, are dynamic partners capable of giving timely responses, but they need to "see" researchers in the company more often to succeed in the most difficult task: teaming up to put into practice sustainable growth strategies.

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