Scientists from the UK and India have recycled the byproducts of mustard oil production to develop an enzyme that can be used in commercial laundry detergents.
Lipases are the second-largest commercially produced enzymes, with an estimated market value of more than €16B. They are used in various industries to produce fine chemicals, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and biodiesel.
The use of lipases in the laundry enzyme detergent industry is rising, because they are more eco-friendly than their phosphate-based counterparts, and have a better ability to remove oil stains without harming the texture of the cloth.
However, the specialized conditions needed to culture the lipase-producing bacteria can incur high costs, forcing researchers to search for more cost-effective alternatives. One such alternative comes in the form of agricultural waste, specifically oil cakes.
Pattanathu Rahman, a microbial biotechnologist from the Center for Enzyme Innovation at the University of Portsmouth in the UK, told me: “Oil cakes that are the by-products of oil extraction have a protein content of around 30–40%.”
“We used these oil cakes as a feedstock for bacteria to produce industrially important lipase enzymes.”
The nutrient-rich oil cakes used by Rahman and his collaborators at Siksha O Anusandhan University in India came from the mustard oil production industry, while the heat- and alkali-resistant bacteria that the team selected for optimal lipase production — called Anoxybacillus sp. ARS-1 — were isolated from a tropical hot spring in Taptapani, Odisha, India.
The researchers used mathematical prediction models to identify the ideal temperature, acidity, moisture content, and biosurfactant concentration needed for lipase production during the fermentation process with the oil cakes.
Once determined, they investigated the effect chemical and commercial detergents had on the lipase stability and found that it was resistant to nearly all of those tested, including commercial detergents such as Ariel and Surf, making it a prospective additive for such products.
“Microbial lipase is a commercially viable product,” Rahman said. “Valorization of by-products or waste-streams from the food processing industry into high added-value products for market applications is a fast-growing R&D platform.”
He added that his team is now interested in scaling up the production process of their lipase at the UK Center for Process Innovation’s National Formulation Centre in collaboration with industrial partners.
The full details of the research are published in the journal Preparative Biochemistry & Biotechnology.
Laura Cowen is a freelance medical journalist. Her background is in medical microbiology, with a particular interest in public health and infectious diseases. Outside of work she enjoys roller skating, trips to the theatre, and exploring the UK and Europe with her family in their new motorhome Bella.
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