(733a) Catalytic Depolymerization of Chitin into High-Value Platform Chemicals

Wong, H. W., University of Massachusetts Lowell
Gogulapati, H., University of Massachusetts Lowell
Chitin, a major component of crustacean exoskeletons, is the second most abundant polysaccharide in nature after cellulose. Each year, billion tons of crustacean shells are discarded as waste. This is especially a critical problem in the Northeastern United States, where thousand pounds of seafood are processed each day. Since landfill of waste from seafood processing is prohibited, the current solution is to freeze the waste and ship it to a different country. Discovery of novel methods to better utilize this waste is thus important for local economy and environment protection. In our work, pyrolysis of chitin in the presence of solid acid catalysts is conducted. The experimental results show that the addition of catalysts during pyrolysis significantly reduces the yields of biochar and increases of yields of sugar derivatives. The yields of sugar derivatives are dependent on reaction temperature, reaction time, and catalyst loading. Key deploymerization reaction pathways leading to high-value products are identified.