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β-Chitin samples with similar microfibril arrangement change mechanical properties varying the degree of acetylation

Montroni, Devis, Fermani, Simona, Morellato, Kavin, Torri, Giangiacomo, Naggi, Annamaria, Cristofolini, Luca, Falini, Giuseppe
Carbohydrate polymers 2019 v.207 pp. 26-33
Loligo, X-ray diffraction, acetylation, biocompatible materials, chitin, chitosan, crystal structure, mechanical properties, modulus of elasticity, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy, squid, thermal analysis
Chitin is widespread in nature and is increasingly used in synthetic process for the production of new biomaterials. Chitin degree of acetylation, crystalline structure and microfibril arrangement differentiate chemical, physical and mechanical properties. Nevertheless, no information are available on the relationship between the mechanical properties and the degree of acetylation (DA) in chitin samples in which the microfibril arrangement does not change. Here, samples of β-chitin with decreasing DA, up to chitosan, were prepared using the squid pen of Loligo vulgaris. These samples were characterized by CP-MAS NMR spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy, thermal analyses, synchrotron X-ray fiber diffraction and tensile tests. The results showed a similar microfibril arrangement decreasing the DA, except for the chitosan sample. The mechanical properties showed an increase of the maximum strain and a reduction of the maximum stress and Young’s modulus, decreasing the DA. These changes, not linear with the DA, were related to structural changes at molecular structure level. The knowledge deriving from this study is of interest both for the understanding of the mechanical properties of chitinous biological samples, but also for the design and synthesis of new biomacromolecular materials.