Mushroom Enzyme to Replace Detergents?

mushroom pic

Novozymes , a Danish biotechnology company is trying to fight climate change. Its secret weapon: mushrooms like those in a dormant forest outside Copenhagen, reports New York Times.

Novozymes, which has its India operations in Bengaluru, is 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 % of household electricity use in the European Union.

Over thousands of years, mushrooms and their fungi cousins 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.

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 report notes.

In 2009, Novozymes scientists teamed up with Procter & Gamble 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.

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