Purification and Characterization of Acheta domesticus and Gryllodes sigillatus Cricket Chitin and Chitosan for Bioactive and Biodegradable Food Packaging Applications
The production of insects for protein is projected to reach a market share of 1.33 billion USD, a rapid increase from the estimated 144 million USD share of 2019 market. The isolation of insect protein produces by-products, including chitin. Currently chitin is extracted from aquaculture by-products, such as shrimp and crab shells, and used to produce chitosan for various applications in the supplement and food industry. With the insect market expected to continue its growth, the feasibility of sourcing commercial chitin and chitosan from reared crickets’, and the application properties of its counterpart, chitosan, was investigated in this dissertation. In the first part of this dissertation, chitin from two commonly reared crickets in the Unites States, Acheta domesticus and Gryllodes sigillatus, was successfully extracted, purified, and identified as a commercially viable option for chitin and chitosan. Extensive crustacean chitin studies served as the foundation of purification steps, however durations were adjusted to account for intrinsic differences between insects and crustacean exoskeletons. Furthermore, cricket chitosan was prepared and optimized with varying degrees of deacetylation. As expected, cricket chitosan had lower molecular but did not have a detectable effect on the bioactive properties tested. All cricket chitosan produced had similar lipid binding capacity in vitro. Additionally, the microbial inhibition of cricket chitosan and commercial chitosan (~70% DDA) were not significantly different when evaluated against L. innocua and E. coli. High DDA cricket chitosan showed greatest bacterial inhibition as expected. In the second part of this dissertation, cricket derived chitosan showed similar and improved food packaging properties, when evaluated against commercial shrimp chitosan. microstructure analysis provided by scanning electron microscopy showed greater compaction and agglomeration of cricket chitosan films. The change in microstructure may be attributed to the increased complexity generally attributed to insect chitosan materials, a result of remaining melanin and protein in close association with insect exoskeleton chitosan. As a result, cricket films had similar or increased tensile strengths but decreased elongation percentages when compared to shrimp films. Water vapor permeability of cricket films was decreased due to tortuosity. Residual melanin likely played an important role in increasing cricket film surface hydrophobicity and providing enhanced light barrier properties. Overall, this dissertation successfully shows the potential of crickets as insect derived chitin and chitosan, and its effectiveness as a lipid binding and antibacterial agent, as well as its potential use in biobased food packaging.