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The Industrial Application of Enzymes.

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The Industrial Application of Enzymes. Enzymes are naturally occurring biological molecules found in all living organisms, plant, animal and microorganisms such as bacteria. All enzymes are proteins and, as with all proteins, are made up of a chain or polymer of amino acids held together by peptide bonds. This chain coils to form a specific three-dimensional globular shape, which, typically, means an enzyme will only work with one specific substrate. The purpose of an enzyme is to lower the activation energy required for biochemical reactions to take place. As a result a reaction catalysed by an enzyme will be much more efficient at breaking down a substrate into its products and consequently are used in industry for just this purpose. To obtain these enzymes scientist look mostly to naturally occurring microorganisms, as they are the most productive producers, are easy to handle, can be grown in huge tanks without light, and have a very high growth rate. This may sound all very new and scientific but microorganisms have been used for brewing, baking and alcohol production long before anybody knew of the existence of enzymes. One of the earliest references can be found in Homer's Greek poems dating from about 800 BC where he mentions the use of enzymes in the production of cheese. ...read more.


Effectively, any protein that is treated with protease would be broken down at a molecular level even before washing. The enzymes used are produced from Bacillus licheniformis or B. amyloliquefaciens. These enzymes are usable at high pH and temperatures up to 60o C, making them perfectly suited to the conditions found in a wash. Soon after amylases and lipases (to a lesser extent) began being used together with the proteases. This offered even greater cleaning power. While the proteases did the job of breaking down proteins, lipases could do the same to any fatty stains such as butter, oils, fatty sauces and lipsticks while amylases break down starchy stains coming from potato, porridge or even gravy. The amylases would work in the exact way they do in the diagram above, hydrolysing the glycoside bonds between sugars thus leaving it greatly more soluble. The most popular Amylase enzyme is derived from Bacillus licheniformis. This enzyme is resistant to the proteases (to some degree), is active at temperatures of 85o C and can tolerate pH values of around 10.5. However, with conditions inside a washing machine being very hostile to an enzyme, most lipases are not sufficiently stable in wash conditions to be useful. There is currently much interest in isolating and developing lipases that will allow removal of fatty stains at the current low wash temperatures. ...read more.


of juices are possibly the biggest uses of enzymes in industry, however in everyday life you unlikely to spend a day without having benefited in some way or another from the industrial application of enzymes (even if you do not eat sweet food, drink juices or even wash your clothes!). Leather goods for example have been treated with enzymes for many years. Proteases (the enzymes which break down protein) are used in the de-hairing and lipases (the enzymes which breakdown fats) to degrease hides ready for the soles of a pair of shoes or the covering of a chair. In the textiles industry too enzymes are starting to replace other older methods of treating fabrics, such as the stonewashing of jeans. Whereas in the past a pair of jeans would be washed literally together with stones, in recent years enzymes have replaced the stones. This technique, known as Biostoning, results in much greater fading without the high abrasive damage both to the actual fabric of the jeans and the washing machines in which the process takes place. There are even enzymes which will peel a citrus fruit or de-stone a peach for you. These are commonly used only in the catering industry as a replacement for caustic soda, however maybe one day the use of enzymes for medial tasks like peeling an orange will become commonplace. ...read more.

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A detailed look at selected examples of enzyme use in industry. More room might usefully have been given to covering the features of enzymes which make them so useful.

Marked by teacher Adam Roberts 29/05/2013

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