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Industrial biotechnology


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Industrial biotechnology is the practice of using cells to generate industrially-useful products. An enzyme is a protein that catalyzes, or speeds up, a chemical reaction.

The main advantage of enzymes compared to most other catalysts is their sterio-, regio- and chemoselectivity and specificity. Biotechnology processes may have potential in energy production, specifically in the substitution of renewable plant biomass for fossil feedstock. This will depend on the development of enzymes able to degrade cellulose in plant biomass and designing methods to recycle or dispose of spent biomass.

In the chemical and pharmaceuticals industry biotechnology is used in fermentation processes, biotransformation of precursors and biosynthesis of drugs by recombinant organisms. Examples of fermentation and biotransformation which are performed on an industrial scale are the production of aminoacids, drugs and their precursors, food and cosmetics, agrochemicals and various other chemicals. Biotechnological processes are used almost exclusively for the synthesis of high-value, special and fine chemicals and for the asymmetric synthesis of chiral substances.

In the food and drink industry biotechnology is already widely applied and mainly used during those steps which require enzymes and microorganisms. These include in particular the dairy industry, the production of raw sausages, baking, alcoholic beverages, food additives such as vitamins, aminoacids or organic acids and enzyme preparation. In addition, biotechnology is increasingly used for food analytics. Traditionally, bacteria, yeast and fungi have been used to produce enzymes.

The application of biotechnology processes is gaining interest world-wide in the whole pulp and paper industry. In most cases combinations of biotechnology, chemical and physical procedures are applied. Important examples include the following: biopulping wood chips (by fungi), improving dewatering properties, de-inking. In the textile industry biotechnology processes can be applied to the following procedures: pre-washing substances, desizing of starch, bioblesching in denim processing, improving dye fixation to fibres, the surface modifying of other washout products. The potential for the application of biotechnology to leather processing lies in enzymatic dehairing, the conversion of waste from leather production into useful substances.

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