June 22, 2024
Industrial Enzymes

Industrial Enzymes: Exploring the Green Alternatives Revolutionizing Various Industries

Enzymes are natural proteins produced by living organisms that act as catalysts in biochemical reactions. For thousands of years, enzymes have been used directly or indirectly in food production and processing. However, it is only in the past few decades that enzymology has advanced to allow for their large-scale application in industrial processes. Today, industrial catalyst are utilized across many sectors and provide greener alternatives to traditional chemical processes.

Uses of Proteases in Industry

One group of important Industrial Enzymes is proteases, enzymes that break down proteins. Proteases find widespread application in detergent, food, leather, and waste treatment industries. For laundry and automatic dishwasher detergents, proteases help break down and remove protein-based stains like food, grass, blood, and perspiration. They offer better cleaning efficiency and allow for lower washing temperatures compared to regular detergents. This saves energy and is more environmentally friendly.
In food processing, proteases are used in meat tenderization and cheese production. During meat tenderization, they break down tough collagen fibers to make meat more tender and tasty. For cheese making, specific milk-clotting proteases called rennets are used to curdle milk and allow separation of solid curds from liquid whey. Rennet allows production of various cheese varieties on an industrial scale. In leather processing, proteases help remove hair, flesh, and scrap from animal hides in dehairing and bating steps. This results in softer, stronger leather with fewer defects. They also aid in wastewater treatment by degrading proteins in sewage.

Applications of Amylases and Cellulases

Amylases and cellulases are the most abundantly used carbohydrate-degrading enzymes in industry. Amylases break down starches into simpler sugars like maltose and glucose. They have applications in food, paper, textile, and brewing industries. In food processing, amylases are used to convert cassava, corn, potato, and wheat starch into glucose syrups. These syrups are used as sweeteners and in various food and drink applications. Amylases are also important in brewing industries for fermenting grains into beer and bioethanol production.
Cellulases find applications in biofuel, textile, paper, juice, and wine industries by hydrolyzing cellulose into glucose. In biofuel production, cellulases help break down lignocellulosic biomass like agricultural and forest residues into fermentable sugars for ethanol production. This provides a sustainable fuel source. For textiles, cellulases are used for enzymatic stonewashing of denim fabric to make them look worn-out. In paper industries, they are used for improving paper strength, brightness, and runnability. Cellulases enhance juice and wine yields in fruit and grape processing by breaking cell walls for extracting more juice.

Benefits of Using Industrial Enzymes

There are several advantages of using enzymes instead of traditional chemical catalysts in industrial processes:
Specificity – Enzymes have exceptionally high reaction specificity and only catalyze desired reactions, reducing unwanted side reactions. This improves product yield and purity.
Mild reaction conditions – Many enzymatic processes occur at ambient temperatures and pressures and do not require high temperatures, corrosion-resistant materials or large energy inputs.
Green technology – Due to mild conditions and specificity, enzymes are environmentally friendly and generate little to no pollution. They provide greener alternatives to conventional technologies.
Catalytic efficiency – Enzymes are highly efficient natural catalysts and require minute quantities, often parts per million, to carry out reactions. This improves process economics.
Renewable sources – Microbial enzymes can be produced in large quantities from renewable biomass, making them sustainably sourced.
Versatile applications – Enzymes have versatility to catalyze thousands of different reactions involved in all branches of industries like food, agriculture, detergents, textiles, leather, paper, energy and more.

Challenges and Future Scope

Though industrial catalyst offer multiple advantages, their large-scale application faces certain challenges. Process parameters need to be optimized to suit production conditions. Enzyme stability during storage and operations needs improving through immobilization or protein engineering techniques. High enzyme costs also limit their use in some applications. However, with advancing fermentation and recovery technologies, enzyme costs are reducing steadily.
Enzyme engineering through directed evolution, DNA shuffling, and other techniques will expand enzyme functionality. Integrated biorefineries producing multiple products from biomass will provide new opportunities. Use of enzyme cocktails for catalysis of complex reactions will become more common. More agricultural and forest waste will be utilized via consolidated bioprocessing using cellulolytic enzymes. Overall, industrial catalyst are poised for exponential growth with innovative applications emerging across sectors in the coming decades.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research.
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it.