Though there are a lot of different applications of chitosan in many areas of our daily life there are only a limited number of companies which deal with the production and processing of chitosan. Two such examples are BioNova in Büsum and the Seehof Laboratorium in Wesselburen, both situated in Schleswig-Holstein, the northern part of Germany.
As mentioned in the section "Scientific Content Knowledge", Chitosan is used for the clarification and cleaning of protein-containing waste waters from the production of food and drink such as meat, fish, milk as well as of breweries. Also fruit and vegetable juice are clarified with the aid of chitosan. One non-food related field of application is the purification of heavy-metal contaminated waste water. Also membranes made of chitosan are suitable for water softening, because they are impermeable to calcium ions. Paper impregnated with a solution containing 3% chitosan show a significantly higher tear-resistance, abrasion resistance and moisture resistance compared to untreated paper. Due to the antibacterial character of chitosan, it is possible to use packaging films of chitosan for preservation. In technology chitin and chitosan are used for the production of membranes, fibres and films. Since chitin, chitosan and different derivatives of these compounds are degradable by endogenous enzymes and have no allergic effects, they are used in different medical and pharmaceutical fields. Examples are suture materials, wound dressings as well as synthetic skin. Derivatives of chitosan are also used in hair-care products. Chitosan derivatives are used in creams and ointments because of their water-binding ability and adhesiveness.
The Seehof Lab Company is particularly interested in medical applications among its products include Photosan (from Chitosan), a photosensitizer used for photodynamic therapy (PDT) of skin cancer.
When the students work on the “Fat-Magnet” problem they ask: Can Chitosan bind fat? This can be investigated through a number of school lab experiments. But then they have to consider whether this is possible in the human body and whether this can lead to weight loss. It was at this point that our students (IPN, Germany) contacted the company (Seehof), and got new information about their problem, but got to know much more information about chitosan, its applications and new developments in this field. They were able to start a cooperation with the company where they tried out new research activities like an alternative way to gain chitosan from crab shells through enzymatic processes.
Through this relationship students and teachers learned more about chitosan, about new research and application developments. They also learned how chemists and other related professionals work in practice, and they became convinced that their own work at school is of life relevance.