Chitin-based Degradable Beverage Cup

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The cup is made of chitin and contains compartments containing chitin-degrading enzymes ('chitanases').

Enzyme compartments have small openings to the outside of the cup.

Enzymes are initially in a dried (‘lyophilized’) state and are inactive.

Upon exposure to water in the environment (such as a landfill), the water enters enzyme compartments, reconstuting and re-activating the enzymes.

The reactivated enzymes then degrade the chitin of the cup into chitosan, an environmentally-friendly water-soluble compound which has numerous medical (surgical sutures), nutritional (food supplements), industrial (clarifiers, floculants) and agricultural uses (soil amendments).

Another version of a chitin-based cup contains 3 layers:

  1. internal water- and oil-impervious chitin layer,
  2. a porous layer containing embedded enzymes and
  3. an outer perforated chitin layer.

When moisture reaches the inner chitin layer through perforations, the enzymes are activated and degrade chitin into chitosan.

Thus, the cup can hold a wide types of liquids (including water) virtually indefinitely, but will degrade rapidly upon exposure to water from outside.

Chitin largely is a byproduct of shrimping industries worldwide. The current annual chitin creation volume is about 300,000 tons and it currently presents a disposal/environmental challenge since it degrades slowly in landfills.

In contrast, a chitin derivative chitosan is environmentally benign, valuable and used in divers applications.

A patent has been granted for this degradable cup.


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  • Name:
    Gary Abramov
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