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Scientists search for greener shampoo production using waste prawn shells

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August 3 2015

Scientists at Glyndŵr University are investigating whether waste prawn shells can make the production of shampoos and laundry liquids more environmentally-friendly.

The team of chemistry researchers believe a polymer, derived from chitin, found naturally in the seafood shells, can be extracted and used instead of synthetic polymers to make personal and home care products.

Polymers are added to a range of industrial formulations, including food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and paints, to control their viscosity and extend their shelf-life.

Natural polymers are preferable to synthetic ones, which are produced from petro-chemicals which are non-renewable.

The university team is currently concluding a £1m research project in collaboration with industrial partners including Croda, Almac Group and Seagarden.

This project received financial support from the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, and Innovation Norway.

In laboratories at its Centre for Water Soluble Polymers in Wrexham, scientists have modified polymer extracted from waste prawn shells provided by Seagarden, a natural seafood ingredients manufacturer in Norway.

It is hoped that the new polymer which they’ve created will perform the same function as existing polymers in personal and home care products.

A Croda team, who are based in Widnes, are looking at scaling up industrial production of the polymer. They are involved in the project along with Craigavon-based Almac Group.

Pete Williams, Professor of Polymer and Colloid Chemistry at Glyndwr University, said: “Chitosan is one of the most abundant of all natural polymers and it has attracted great interest.

“This is a two year project which started in June 2013 and 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 has been around for a long time but we have developed a method of modifying it to give it enhanced properties.

“The prawn shells would normally be disposed of as waste so, ultimately, the aim of the project is to make the production of personal and home care products greener.”

The Centre at Glyndŵr University works with industry to develop novel solutions to problems using its expertise in water soluble polymers.

It helped to recycle leftovers from apples produced as a by-product of the cider industry by reformulating them into slug pellets.

The team also worked on a project with a local company, Russell Integrated Pest Management (IPM), to create an eco-friendly formulation which stops insects destroying crops by ‘mating disruption’ through the controlled release of pheromones.

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