BioLog GmbH, based in Landsberg, is developing bioplastics from chitin, a natural biopolymer extracted from the exoskeleton of crustaceans such as shrimps and crabs. Chitin is modified to chitosan, which can be used for many applications, including for wastewater treatment and as animal feed.
Since 1992, BioLog Biotechnologie und Logistik GmbH has developed technologies and products for water and wastewater treatment as well as biopolymers for industrial applications. BioLog GmbH focuses on the production of chitosan, a chitin derivative that is mainly extracted from the shells of crustaceans. Chitin is modified to chitosan by the elimination of the N-acetyl groups. Chitosan is a cationic polysaccharide which opens up a wide range of application opportunities in an acid environment. Chitosan can be biologically degraded, is non-toxic, inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungi and also enhances wound healing. BioLog GmbH uses chitosan in the treatment of water and wastewater, in agriculture, in the paper and textile industries as well as for the production of bioplastics.
The properties of chitosan depend mainly on the degree of deacetylation, its molar mass and the ash content of the polymer. "These parameters are subject to strict controls at BioLog GmbH," said Anke Wunder, Head of Marketing at BioLog GmbH. Controlled technological processing is an important prerequisite for defined, long-lasting product quality in different industrial areas. BioLog GmbH has developed a method for the environmentally friendly and economic production of the biopolymers. The plants have a high degree of automation and can be used in modules for the following processing steps: from the preparation of the crustacean shells to the production of chitin and chitosan.
The cationic polysaccharide chitosan is used, amongst other things, as a biological flocculation agent. BioLOG GmbH has developed the cationic flocculation aid HEPPIX, which is used for the flocculation and dehydration of organic and mineral wastewater and sludge. "The binding of heavy metals through chitosan leads to a complex that flocculates and can subsequently be removed," explains Wunder. HEPPIX can also be used for the flocculation of algae in garden ponds and swimming basins, for the concentration of liquid manure and for the solid/liquid separation of process water in the food industry.
However, BioLog GmbH went a step further still by using the versatile chitosan to produce a bioplastic based on starch, chitosan and biodegradable co-polyester: SARAH. The material's high mechanical stability and its biodegradability enable the material's use in the packaging industry, in injection moulding and as insulation foam.
The fact that the shells of crustaceans have also entered the animal feed industry shows the versatility of the product. The calcium carbonate from the shells of crustaceans is particularly suitable as the basis for producing feed for the rearing of young animals. It is applied as an additive (MariMin) to normal animal feed, which helps farm animals such as calves and young pigs to stabilise their water and electrolyte balance.
In order to also produce chitosan-based products for medical applications, BioLog GmbH works closely with appropriate partners. BioLog GmbH is especially focused on nanoparticles that are produced in a plant that was specifically developed for this purpose. The nanoparticles, originally envisaged for technical applications, can also be used in medical applications, for example as drug delivery systems. The company is currently constructing a facility to produce nanoparticles with different active ingredients under clean-room conditions.