Kadambini Alva


The BioTalk Magazine

Industrial biotechnology, as complex as it sounds, is actually applied to many products that are used in our home on a daily basis. Industrial biotechnology uses enzymes and micro-organisms to make bio-based products in sectors such as chemicals, food ingredients, detergents, paper, textiles, and biofuels.

In 1800s, Louis Pasteur proved that fermentation was the result of microbial activity, later 1928 sir Alexander Fleming managed to extract penicillin from mold. In this way, large scale production of enzymes paved the way for industrial biotechnology. It involves microbial production of enzymes which are specialized proteins that facilitate and speed up complex biochemical reactions.

Below listed are different ways we use biotechnology in our homes everyday

• Bioplastics and biopolymers: they are used in plastic food packaging, mobile phone cases, sunglasses, pens, and personal care packaging for products like shampoos and conditioners.

• Fabric production and dyes: polyester is a synthetic polymer fiber produced from fossil fuel and is used to make clothing, blankets, carpets and other fabrics. Many bio-chemicals are used in the production of dyes, tanning agents all of which are vital materials in the production of textiles for carpets, clothing and upholstery

• In future, many different consumer products will contain materials derived from bio based feedstocks. Bio-chemicals may also be utilized in processes to formulate personal care products such as make-up, skincare, and shampoos.

Extracted cellulose fibers are tough and absorbent, and can be extracted from raw materials for use in composites as a replacement for glass, and in many applications where absorbency is needed such as use in nappies, cat litter and sanitary products.

• Gas from bio refineries can be combusted to produce heat and power. Methane can be directly injected in the gas grid to heat homes and produce electricity. A bio refinery can produce enough energy and heat to cover its own parasitic load as well as be a net exporter to the grid. Energy can also be produced from algae as a biofuel. Fluctuating oil prices, global reliance on fossil fuels and agricultural chemicals have ignited interest in farming algae. The biomass from algae can be recycled and used to produce variety of products such as bioethanol, biopharmaceuticals, biogas and compost for crop production.

• The food and drink industry uses many products using biochemical such as packaging material, fragrances, flavors, sweeteners, souring agents and acidity regulators which are used in a wide range of products.

• Pharmaceuticals are a major part of our daily lives too. Be it life-saving drugs or supplement the daily energy needs, biotechnology is a major part of this industry.

• Alcohol production is also one the most basic applications of biotechnology. For instance, beer is made from water, a starch source, brewer’s yeast and a flavoring agent (hops). The starch is converted to sugars, fermented using yeast, and flavored using hops.

Thus, each one of us is surrounded by biotechnology extensively and we have been using it unintentionally for the longest time irrespective of the nature of our work.

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