In the present study, we prepared and characterized chitin nanomaterials with different diameters, lengths, and degree of deacetylation (DD), and investigated their capability for enhancing saltiness perception. Chitin was isolated from squid pens and transformed into chitin nanofiber (CNF), deacetylated chitin nanofiber (DACNF), and chitin nanocrystal (CNC) by ultrasonication, alkali treatment followed by ultrasonication and acid hydrolysis, respectively. The diameters of CNF, CNC and DACNF were 17.24 nm, 16.05 nm and 15.01 nm while the lengths were 1725.05 nm, 116.91 nm, and 1806.60 nm, respectively. The aspect ratios of CNF and DACNF were much higher than that of CNC. The crystalline indices of CNF and CNC were lower than that of original β-chitin, suggesting that ultrasonication and acid hydrolysis might change the molecular arrangement in crystalline region of chitin. The zeta-potentials were between 19.73 nV and 30.08 mV of chitin nanomaterials in distilled water. Concentrations of chitin nanomaterials (40–74 μg/mL) showed minimal effect on zeta-potential, whereas increasing the level of NaCl reduced the zeta-potential of solution. Moreover, NaCl solution (0.3%) with chitin nanomaterials addition produced significant higher saltiness perception than that of solution with NaCl alone. Therefore, chitin nanomaterials may be promising saltiness enhancers in the food industry.
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