|Bioconversion of Organic Residues for Rural Communities (UNU, 1979)|
|Possible applications of enzyme technology in rural areas|
Enzyme technology, in its broadest sense, involves the problems not only of application of the enzymes themselves, but also their production, isolation, and frequently their modification to achieve stability All of these technology components must be considered in the application of enzyme technology. The rationale for development of enzyme technology is based upon the unique advantages of enzymes as catalysts. These advantages include the highly stereo-specific reactions that are catalyzed with few, if any, side reactions, and the rapid reaction rates that are achieved under mild conditions of pH and temperature. These properties make enzymes particularly desirable for processing natural products for eventual human or animal consumption. For this reason, enzyme technology has had substantial impact on the food industry.
However, enzyme catalysis is not without its disadvantages. Enzymes themselves are sensitive to extremes in pH or temperature. In many applications, enzymes are used only once and then remain, usually denatured, with the final product. As a consequence, the cost of enzyme isolation can be quite high. Lastly, when using enzymes over long periods of time, stability becomes of critical importance If subjected to unfavourable conditions, enzymes rapidly lose their catalytic ability.
Enzyme technology has quickly become a very "high technology," or technologically intensive. Herein lies the major limitation to the application of enzyme technology in rural areas. How is it possible to deliver and routinely use enzymes under variable conditions? The major question becomes: "What have we learned about enzyme technology and the properties of enzymes that can now be directed towards the development of simple technological processes that will better the life of small groups of people in simple, rural environments?" This is the challenge Can we use high technology to develop low-technology processes?