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Keywords:

  • chitosan;
  • crystallinity;
  • guanidine hydrochloride;
  • half-acetylated chitosan;
  • hydrogen bonding

Abstract

Thumbnail image of graphical abstract

We explore the role of crystallinity and inter- or intramolecular forces in chitosan for its solubility in water and demonstrate the expansion of its solubility to a wider pH range. Due to its semicrystalline nature, derived mainly from inter- and intramolecular hydrogen bonds, chitosan is water-soluble only at pH < 6. In acidic conditions, its amino groups can be partially protonated resulting in repulsion between positively charged macrochains, thereby allowing diffusion of water molecules and subsequent solvation of macromolecules. We show that chemical disruption of chitosan crystallinity by partial re-acetylation or physical disruption caused by the addition of urea and guanidine hydrochloride broadens the pH-solubility range for this biopolymer.