Prawns could replace plastic in some cosmetics

Chitin could be used as thickening agent

Molecules extracted from prawn shells could be used as a replacement for polymers in some cosmetics. Researchers at Glyndwr University have said that the molecules could replace synthetic thickeners in many products.

The scientists worked with Seagarden, a seafood ingredients manufacturer based in Norway, who provided the chitin molecules, extracted from waste prawn shells. The development comes at the end of a £1m two-year research project funded by industrial partners Croda, Almac Group and Seagarden. The material is now being tested in a number of personal care product formulations.

Professor Pete Williams, Professor of Polymer and Colloid Chemistry at Glyndwr University, said: “We’ve now reached the stage where we’ve developed a new polymer which is now being tested in personal and home care formulations. Chitosan – a material made by treating crustaceans’ shells with sodium hydroxide – has been around for a long time, but we have developed a method of modifying it to give it enhanced properties.”

As the prawn shells used to extract the chitosan would otherwise by disposed of as waste, the project could help make the production of many cosmetic products more environmentally friendly.

Chitosan is already used as an anti-ageing ingredient in several skin care products.

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