Mechanoenzymatic Breakdown of Chitinous Material to N-Acetylglucosamine: The Benefits of a Solvent-Free Environment

We report an innovative and efficient mechanoenzymatic method to hydrolyze chitin to N-acetylglucosamine monomer using chitinase under the recently developed RAging methodology, i.e. a combination of mechanochemical ball milling activation and accelerated aging repeated over many cycles, in the absence of bulk solvent. Our result show that the activity of chitinases increases several times by switching from traditional solvent-based conditions of enzymatic catalysis to solvent-free RAging, which operates on moist solid substrates. Importantly, RAging is also highly efficient for the production of N-actylglucosamine directly from shrimp and crab shell biomass without any other processing, except for a gentle wash with aqueous acetic acid.