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Utilisation of Prawn Shell Waste

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School of Chemical Engineering & School of Pharmacy,

Queen’s University Belfast

Dr. Michael G. Healy, Prof. Sean Gorman & Prof. David Jones


Carapacics Ltd. is a QUB spin-out company, formed to commercialise products from prawn/shrimp shell waste.


The starting material - the humble prawn!

But only the tail section contains that wonderful prawn meat - the rest (head, claws and tail shell) are waste.

Prawn tails

Prawn tails straight from the factory - the starting material for bioprocessing.

Prawn size variation

Prawn tails come in a variety of sizes!


Where it all happens - a 500 litre bioreactor.

Mike Healy

Even Directors have to work - Dr Mike Healy adding the magic ingredient to make it all happen!

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Carapacics Ltd. Staff at work - preparing the raw material.

Prepared tail waste in the bioreactor

Prepared tail waste in the bioreactor.


small_green_bullet.gif (334 bytes) Environmental pollution is a natural consequence of human activities. It is also the result of natural processes. Volcanoes erupt and discharge gases; rains erode and transport silts and dissolved compounds; winds move dirt particles, salt particles and a wide variety of other gaseous and solid materials. In the course of human development, industrialisation has made possible higher standards of living in our modern society. Such "progress" has created increased problems with wastes from processing operations and their ultimate disposal – creating water pollution, air pollution and land pollution.

small_green_bullet.gif (334 bytes) The nature of wastes is wide and varied, being broadly classified into: agricultural, municipal and industrial. The latter source tends to produce waste of the most polluting types – the majority being chemicals (37.6% of the total) and metals (29.1%). The remainder of the industrial wastes includes such diverse materials as paper (4.6%), petroleum (2.4%), stone, rubber, leather and textiles. Of this wide range of industrial waste, some 3% is generated by the food processing industries. Such waste is, however, amenable to forms of treatment because of its organic nature. Organic food waste contains proteins, vitamins, carbohydrates and fat and such components are highly polluting due to what is termed their high BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand). They are also, however, extremely valuable components which can be recovered.

small_green_bullet.gif (334 bytes) In the UK alone, the food industry generates huge volumes of waste, currently discharged to our rivers and lakes or disposed of onto landfill sites. The following is an indication of food industry waste:


million tons/year

1- Meat and Poultry


2- Dairy


3- Fruit and Vegetable


4- Beverages, breweriesdistilleries, wineries


5- Fish and Shelfish



A proportion of such waste is recovered for alternative, non-food uses: meat, bone, feather meals, blood, fat, and grease; cheese whey, whey proteins and lactose; sugar syrup, starch and pectin; brewers yeast, brewers grains and tartrates.

The posters (Utilisation of Egg Shell Waste & Utilisation of Prawn Shell Waste)  highlighting the recovery and utilisation of prawn and egg shell waste are classical examples of food industry waste being upgraded and products derived thereof being applied to other commercial/industrial sectors. The processing techniques used to utilise the shell wastes are unique to Queen’s University and its industrial partners.


Prawn Shell Waste

Product Application
Chitin/Chitosan Biomedical: wound healing; cholesterol reduction; dental adhesive; drug release.

Food: Clarifying agent for fruit juice and wine.

Personal Care: Skin and hair products; cosmetics.

Water Treatment: Removal of dyes and metal ions; removal of bacteria from swimming pools.

Coatings/Coverings: Coatings for biomedical intrusive devices; biodegradable packaging.

Agriculture: Nematode control; seed coatings; fruit coatings; feed additive.

For more information on the subject please contact:

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