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The Economic Impact of the Use of Enzymes in Industry.

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The Economic Impact of the Use of Enzymes in Industry Enzymes are very precise protein molecules with a high specificity which are used to catalyse chemical reactions by lowering the activation energy required for the reaction to take place. It is these properties of being able to break down substances easily and bind specifically to certain chemicals that make enzymes very useful in many industries and practices throughout the world. In addition to this enzymes are not used up in experiments so products of processes are not contaminated with enzyme which could be a problem. This essay explains 3 uses of enzymes, in industry and food, diagnosing and analysing, and treating disease, explaining the function and advantages of enzyme use in each example. An enzyme is a biological catalyst, used for speeding up chemical reactions in cells. They are all proteins; and work by making and breaking bonds. They are not used up during a reaction, and a good catalyst can accelerate a reaction by up to 10 times. When they do this, they reduce the activation energy needed for the reaction, which means that the rate of reaction is increased. ...read more.


Enzymes do not typically need these criteria, so costs are reduced as energy costs are lessened and also capital costs are reduced as there is less corrosion and unwanted side reactions from the use of enzymes as opposed to chemical catalysts. For example, the Haber Process produces ammonia by combining hydrogen and nitrogen. However, it requires pressure of around 200 atmospheres, and a temperature of around 500 degrees Celsius. In comparison, nitrogen fixing bacteria can produce ammonia by combining the two gases from the surrounding air using ATP, at room temperature and normal pressure. For example, in the pulp and paper industry enzymes can be used to separate cellulose fibres and make bleaching unnecessary. To make paper, cellulose fibres must be separated from a wood fibre called lignin. Normally this requires the use of mechanical processing or adding strong chemicals. However, lignin-degrading fungi produces cellulase and xylanase enzymes can be used to break down the lignin instead, saving energy and money. Lignin fibres are usually coloured, which is why paper needs to be bleached, normally using chlorine compounds under high pressure. Enzymes can be used to remove the fine surface fibres which cause discolouration, which means that the bleaching process can be reduced or completely avoided. ...read more.


Denaturing from heat occurs when high temperatures cause the weak bonds that stabilize a protein's secondary and tertiary structure to break, causing the enzyme to change shape and become unable to bind with its substrate. Denaturing from pH change happens because the change in pH alters the ionization of the constituent amino acids. Again, this causes bonds to break and the shape to change. Enzymes often need to be isolated and purified from their microorganism, as fermenting whole cells has several disadvantages. Aeration and mixing is energy consuming, and fermenters are expensive to build and maintain. Additionally, the products are more impure and there are more waste products which need to be disposed of, both of which require energy (and therefore higher costs) to rectify as opposed to purified enzymes. Enzymes are isolated to make them more stable and easily recoverable. This is done by fermenting the respective microorganism, and then excreting and purifying the enzyme. However purification and isolation are still both expensive processes. However once the initial costs of converting an industry to enzymes from previously using chemical catalysts are paid, enzymes can provide a much cheaper and efficient alternative. The economy has the potential to benefit hugely in the long term, as higher yields can be produced in industry, and at home energy costs can be greatly reduced. ...read more.

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Response to the question

This piece of coursework explores the various uses of enzymes in industry, commenting well on the advantages and disadvantages involved. I would've liked to see the introduction exploring the scientific explanation of enzymes, as there is little analysis of how ...

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Response to the question

This piece of coursework explores the various uses of enzymes in industry, commenting well on the advantages and disadvantages involved. I would've liked to see the introduction exploring the scientific explanation of enzymes, as there is little analysis of how they work (for example the enzyme-substrate complex concept).

Level of analysis

The exploration of enzymes use in industry is strong, with examples ranging from textiles to the Haber Process. In my experience, including a wide range of well-explained applications will gain you high marks. What I particularly like about this essay is the way they explain an application requiring enzymes, and then describe why using enzymes makes the process more efficient. This essay explores the advantage of immobilising enzymes - a topic which goes beyond GCSE level. If this candidate wanted to show off their understanding further, a short explanation of how immobilising works, and why it means that products don't need to be purified, would've gained them credit. As with most essays on enzymes, the concept of denaturing is not fully explained. I would note that you should always state that denaturing is irreversible, and the active site is distorted so it no longer fits the substrate.

Quality of writing

This essay is structured well. There is a clear introduction, and each paragraph contributes a new point to the argument. Spelling, punctuation and grammar are used effectively, and scientific terms are used throughout to increase the level of analysis. A strong essay!

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Reviewed by groat 12/02/2012

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