What is an enzyme?

Today, enzymes have become an integral part of the textile processing. Though the use of enzymes in desizing was established decades ago, only in recent years the applications have widened with the introduction of new products. With the increased awareness and regulation about the environment concerns, the enzymes are the obvious choice. This is because the enzymes are biodegradable, work under mild conditions and save the precious energy. Enzymes, being biocatalyst and very specific, are used in small quantities and have a direct consequence of lesser packing material and lower transportation impact. In an overall consideration, the enzymes are the wonder products.

Enzymes can replace harsh chemical processes used in textile industry and many catalyse reactions at ambient temperature and press otherwise required. They are biodegradable harmless to the environment and can considered as supreme gift of the nature.

It is a protein with catalytic activity. An enzyme is a biological catalyst able to accelerate several folds a chemical reaction.

All enzymes are proteins, but not all proteins are enzymes.
Enzymes are produced by cells, but enzymes are not capable of reproduction.
Enzymes are, therefore, not "alive", but are biologically active under certain conditions of pH, temperature, medium composition, etc.
Enzymes are active under relatively mild reaction conditions.;
Enzymes are not infectious to individuals or polluting the environment.

Contrary to inorganic catalysts (i.e., heavy metals) enzymes are extremely specific, which means that each enzyme can break or form a single type of chemical bond in a given chemical compound or structure. Furthermore, enzyme-catalyzed reactions take place under mild conditions of temperature (30-70C), pH (between pH 4.5 and 9), pressure (atmospheric), etc., and are to be viewed as eco-compatible, as they do not generate polluting residues or toxic by-products.

There are instances where enzymes can be employed to catalyze some reactions even at extreme temperatures (beyond 100C, as is the case for high-temperature amylases ) or of pH (up to pH 12, such as with alkaline proteases used in leather applications).

There are numerous applications of enzymes, in the fields of industrial chemistry and food processing, amongst which the following should be mentioned:


Amylase for Desizing
Pectinase for bioscouring of raw cotton; amylases for desizing; cellulases for biopolishing and for stonewashing; catalase for the elimination of hydrogen peroxide; proteases for treatment of silk and wool; peroxidase and laccase for dye oxidation.


Proteases for the elimination of protein stains and to enhance the action of chemical surfactants; lipases to hydrolyze triglycerides present in vegetable or animal fats; amylases for the degradation of carbohydrates; cellulases for the defibrillation of fabrics made of cellulosic fibers in order to give cleaner surfaces of knits or garments, better dye brightness, softer hand feel, etc.

Pulp & Paper:

Xylanase for "bleach boosting" to decrease chlorine use in pulp bleaching; lipases for "pitch control"; amylases in preparation of starch coating; cellulase for drainage improvement, process aid in cellulose fiber refining and as an aid in de-inking; etc.


Proteases in beamhouse steps of skin and hides tanning; lipases for degreasing.

Starch & alcohol

Various amylases for the production of glucose and fructose syrups, and their derivatives of alcoholic fermentation.

Protein derivatives

Various types of proteases to produce protein hydrolyzates used in food and animal feed.

Oils and fats

Lipases for the modification of triglycerides and in the production of soja emulsifiers.

Animal feed production

Several enzymes for carbohydrate degradation (e.g., cellulases and hemicellulases) to improve digestibility and increase the conversion index of feeds for monogastric production animals, or to decrease the amount of inorganic phosphorous in pig manure (fitase).

Chemical, dietetic and pharmaceutical products

Stereospecific synthesis of chemical compounds (pharmaceutical active principles and their intermediaries) or dietetic products (aspartame), diagnostics for clinical chemistry, etc.

Oil Drilling

As "breaker technology" to specifically degrade natural polymers used as mud viscosifiers in oil well drilling.

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