Mushroom based enzymes from Novozymes to help in fighting climatic change

Denmark based enzyme manufacturing company, Novozymes with operations in India, is trying to fight climate change with unique enzymes from mushrooms to speed up chemical reactions and cut down on the usage of detergents

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New Delhi: The scientists at Novozymes are working on the more environmentally friendly detergent by studying the enzymes in mushrooms that speed up chemical reactions or natural processes like decay.

Their work is helping the company develop enzymes for laundry and dishwasher detergents that would require less water, or that would work just as effectively at lower temperatures. The energy savings could be significant. Washing machines, for instance, account for over 6 percent of household electricity use in the European Union.

Denmark based enzyme manufacturing company, Novozymes with operations in India, is trying to fight climate change with unique enzymes from mushrooms to speed up chemical reactions and cut down on the usage of detergents.

Over thousands of years, mushrooms have evolved into masters at nourishing themselves on dying trees, fallen branches and other materials. They break down these difficult materials by secreting enzymes into their hosts. Even before anyone knew what enzymes were, they were used in brewing and cheese making, among other activities.

The company is testing new enzyme combinations on doll-size cutouts of clothing. To test a product’s stain-fighting prowess, they import stain samples from around the world, like greasy, blackened collars and yellow armpit stains.

Modern detergents contain as many as eight different enzymes. In 2016, Novozymes generated about $2.2 billion in revenue and provided enzymes for detergents including Tide, Ariel and Seventh Generation.

The quantity of enzymes required in a detergent is relatively small compared with chemical alternatives, an appealing quality for customers looking for more natural ingredients. A tenth of a teaspoon of enzymes in a typical European laundry load cuts by half the amount of soap from petrochemicals or palm oil in a detergent.

Enzymes are also well suited to helping cut energy consumption. They are often found in relatively cool environments, like forests and oceans. As a result of that low natural temperature, they do not require the heat and pressure typically used in washing machines and other laundry processes.

So consumers can reduce the temperatures on their washing machines while ensuring their shirts stay lily white. According to the International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Products, an industry group, lowering the temperature on a washing machine cycle to cold water from 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) reduces energy consumption by at least half.

The Novozymes scientists teamed up with Procter & Gamble in 2009 to develop an enzyme that could be used in liquid detergents for cold-water washes. Researchers started with an enzyme from soil bacteria in Turkey, and modified it through genetic engineering to make it more closely resemble a substance found in cool seawater. When they found the right formula, they called the enzyme Everest, a reference to the scale of the task accomplished.

Next, they found a way to mass produce the enzyme. Novozymes implanted the newly developed product’s DNA into a batch of microbial hosts used to cultivate large volumes of enzymes quickly and at low cost. The enzymes were then “brewed” in large, closely monitored tanks before being sold.