What are Enzymes?
Enzymes are a type of protein. They are long strands of amino acids that act as catalysts (accelerants) to a variety of chemical reactions. In most cases, enzyme catalyzed reactions occur millions of times faster than reactions without catalysts. What makes enzymes so important is how they accelerate these reactions.
There are over four thousand enzymes that have been identified and each of them accelerates a single type of reaction. Enzymes will convert substrates into new products. Like bacteria, enzymes occur in nature and are present in all living things. In fact, bacteria produce many different enzymes. Enzymes differ from bacteria in that they are chemical in nature, not living organisms.
Functions of Enzymes
Enzymes are present in numerous reactions that are necessary for life on earth. In all living things including humans, enzymes aid in the digestion of food, the breakdown of toxins and triggering different lifecycles. The absence of certain enzymes can have devastating effects on health.
In the environment, enzymes are of particular importance in the breakdown of organic matter. Were it not for enzymes, life, as we know it would have ceased to exist long ago, they are essential to the process of decay. Enzymes also play a crucial part in the process of photosynthesis. They are the wonder chemicals of life.
Applications of Enzymes
Enzymes are particularly useful in domestic and commercial applications because they are safe to use and can achieve dramatic effects in a very short space of time. Their use includes but is not limited to the same applications as bacterial products. In fact, the bacterial solutions that are used in water quality control are effective not because of the bacteria that are used but because of the enzymes that those bacteria produce. Enzymes achieve far more speedy results as they are instantly available and will begin to react the moment that they are introduced to the water. This makes enzymes a better solution for swimming pools, spas or fish ponds as they can perform their function effectively between shocks of chlorine or bromine. They also have a number of cleaning applications and are safe for use in food areas. Applications in the cleaning industry typically involve breaking down different types of organic matter.
Perceived Disadvantages of Enzymes
Enzymes are chemical products, so unlike bacteria, they are not able to multiply in the environment that they are introduced to. Though most enzymes are not consumed as part of the reaction, they will need to be replenished as they become diluted with water changes and other environmental factors. Bacteria will multiply, but when added to a system their performance will typically diminish over time as they compete with native bacteria.
While enzymes must be topped off, they are a renewable resource, relatively inexpensive and take action immediately. In many aquaculture farms and wastewater treatment programs, enzymes are added to bacterial treatments in order to boost their effects. The two are not mutually exclusive and can work very well together.
Bacteria or Enzymes?
When it comes to choosing water treatment solutions it does not have to be bacteria or enzymes, it can and often is both. Bacteria have the benefit of naturally reproducing, once introduced; they will continue to produce enzymes to condition the water. Their progress will only be halted if they are destroyed. Enzymes have the benefit of being extremely fast acting. They will provide visible results in a short space of time. In swimming pools or spas, however, the decision is much simpler; bacteria act too slowly to achieve meaningful results. Enzymes are the best solution because they will achieve results without being affected by the sanitizer.
Back to Part 1 >>