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White, horny substance found in the external skeleton of crabs, lobsters, and many insects; in internal structures of some other invertebrates; and in some fungi, algae, and yeasts. It is a polysaccharide, the monomer unit being glucosamine. It is used industrially in purifying wastewater, thickening and stabilizing foods and pharmaceuticals, and sizing and strengthening paper, and as a wound-healing agent, an ion-exchange resin, a membrane for industrial separations, and a binder for dyes, fabrics, and adhesives.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on chitin, visit Britannica.com.