New patented ‘super enzyme’ helps reduce the paper industry’s pollution problem
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A Spanish institute has patented an enzyme that reduces the use of chemical products during paper production, such as chlorine. This technology provides a more environmentally friendly alternative to an industry that is known to be highly pollutant.
The enzyme was discovered by researchers from the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology (IATA). This is a branch of the Spanish Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC). The team has been working as a part of the EU project Woodzymes. This “aims to provide the wood industry with wood-transforming enzymes capable of working in extreme conditions.”
Researchers from Portugal, France, Finland, and Spain are taking part in this initiative.
The newly patented substance is an extremophilic xylanase. This refers to an enzyme that catalyzes the hydrolysis of xylan, one of the main components of a plant’s cell wall. Eliminating it is essential in order to be able to make paper.
What it is particularly attractive about the recently discovered enzyme is its ability to withstand extreme conditions. David Talens-Perales, researcher at IATA, said that it can not only degrade the xylan at very high temperatures, but it is also able to withstand highly elevated levels of alkaline or potential of hydrogen (pH).
The research team found this enzyme after analyzing over 6,000 sequences via their database. The scientists also managed to produce and purify the enzyme in large quantities, an essential step for industrial applications.