Commercial applications of enzymes

 

Commercial applications of enzymes

 

Due to on going research by biotechnologists, enzymes now have a large number of commercial applications. They carry many advantages, with one important one being that enzymes are specific to only one catalytic reaction and so they therefore do not produce a range of unwanted by-products. Commercial applications of enzymes:

  •  Enzymes are widely used in the textile industry. They are used for improving production methods and for fabric finishing. In this industry, a very common application is the use of the enzyme amylase in order to remove starch size. The threads (the longitudinal threads) of the fabrics are often coated in starch. This prevents them from breaker when weaving takes place. In the textile industry, a process called scouring is used (the cleaning of fabrics by removing any impurities such as waxes, pectins and any mineral salts from cellulose fibers). Pectin can act as a glue between the core of the fibers and the waxes, but this can be destroyed by an alkaline called pectinase. Cellulases have quite recently become the tool for fabric finishing. This began in denim finishing where it was discovered that cellulases could achieve the fashionable stonewashed look traditionally achieved through the abrasive action of pumice stones. Cellulases are also quite often used in order to prevent pilling and improve the smoothness and color brightness of cotton fabrics. In addition, a softer handle is obtained. Catalases can also be used for degrading residual hydrogen peroxide after the bleaching of cotton. Hydrogen peroxide has to be removed before dyeing. Protease enzymes are used for wool treatment and the degumming of raw silk.[1] So, examples of enzymes that may be used in the textile industry:
  • Cellulase – for stonewashing denim, polishing of cotton
  • Catalase – removing hydrogen peroxide
  • Pectinase – for bioscouring (a way to scour fabrics)
  • Alpha amylase – for desizing at low temperatures

 

  • The food and drink industry has to be one of the largest markets for enzymes. In the baking industry, enzymes are added to the dough when baking bread to ensure that the bread is high in quality and has a better volume (that there is more of it). Enzymes also have the ability to preserve bread; keeping it fresh for a longer period of time and therefore increasing its shelf life. In the dairy industry, enzymes are used in cheese making to help bring about the coagulation of milk. In these applications, enzymes from microbial and animal sources are used. Industrial enzymes are added to control the brewing process in alcohol making and the brewing industry. This also helps to produce consistent and high quality beer. When making wines and juices, enzymes are used to break down cell walls of plants when extracting plant material. This use of enzymes would give higher juice yields and also improves the color and smell of the extracted substances.
  • Fungal alpha amylase – for dough improvement in the bread making industry
  • Glucoamylase – used in fermentation
  • Papain enzymes – for fermentation in the brewing industry
  • Beta glucanse – for filtration
  • Protease – used in biscuit production

 

  • Enzymes are also used in the pulp and paper industry. Amylase is used for modification of starch coating and xylanases to reduce the consumption of bleach chemicals are very well known applications, but nowadays ‘lipases for is used for pitch control, esterases is used for stickies removal and amylases and cellulases are used for improved deinking and cellulases for fiber modification have become an integral part of the chemical solutions used in the pulp and paper mills.’[2] In the manufacturing of coated papers, a starch-based coating formulation is used in order to coat the surface of the paper. Compared with the uncoated paper, the coating provides a number of benefits, including; improved gloss, a smoother texture, and printing properties.
  • Cellulase – can be used for pulp deinking and pulp refining
  • Xylanase – for pulp bleaching
  • Alpha amylase – starch modification

 

  • Enzymes are used in detergents and in personal care and hygiene. They are used in many household and industrial detergents. This industry, in addition to the food processing industry is currently one of the largest application areas for enzymes. This is because the enzymes are very effective at relatively low temperatures and pH values. They contribute to a: better overall cleaning performance; they are biodegradable so they do not really effect the environment that much; they reduce water consumption through more effective release of soil.

So, a few of the most common enzymes that are used commercially are:

  • Bioethanol is a type of biofuel. It may be used when adding fuel to a vehicle. This biofuel is able to be produced from starchy plant materials with the use of enzymes that are capable of efficiently making this conversion. At the moment, corn is widely used as a source of starch, however increasing interest in bioethanol is raising concerns as corn prices rise and corn as a food supply is being threatened. Other plants including wheat, bamboo, or other grasses are possible candidate sources of starch for bioethanol production. Bioethanol production (the growing of crops, shipping and manufacturing) still requires a large input of non-renewable resources. Technological research and manipulation of enzymes to make the process more efficient, thus requiring less plant material or consuming less fossil fuels, are in the works, to improve on this area of biotechnology.[3]
  • Protease enzyme – used in the manufacturing of baby foods to pre digest proteins
  • Lipase – can be used in conjunction with protease in biological detergents in order to break down and digest the substances in stains into smaller and more water soluble substances
  • Carbohydrase – Can be used to convert starch syrup into sugar syrup. This is done during the manufacturing of sports drinks ; sugar syrup is much more valuable than starch syrup, which is relatively cheap
  • Isomerase – Can be used in slimming foods/weight loss products. It converts the glucose syrup into fructose syrup (fructose is much sweeter than glucose so it can be used in much smaller amounts, thus saving money during the production processes).
  • Zymase in alcohol manufacturing – fermentation is another method used for manufacturing alcohol. During the fermentation process, carbohydrates are converted into ethanol (with carbon dioxide as a by product). The carbohydrate is usually a sugar or a starch .The ethanol that is produced during the fermentation process may have an alcohol concentration of up to 14%. The fermentation process is carried out at quite low temperatures using used. It is the zymase enzymes that are present in the yeast that actually catalyse the fermentation reactions. The reaction takes places at temperatures between 25◦C and 37◦C. This is because zymase would begin to denature at temperatures above 37◦C and it would therefore begin to lose its function and efficiency, whereas at temperature bellow 25◦C the reaction would be too slow. Zymase also stops functioning at an alcohol concentration of above 14%.

 

[1] http://www.anilbioplus.com/products-applications/enzymes/textile.htm

[2] http://www.anilbioplus.com/products-applications/enzymes/paper.htm

[3] http://biotech.about.com/od/whatisbiotechnology/a/EverydayEnzymes_2.htm

[4] Featured image: http://biosciences.dupont.com/

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