ABPI - Resources for Schools

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Enzymes and their uses

Age range 14-16

Uses of enzymes

Use of enzymes in the home

Enzymes can be taken out of organisms, purified and then used in science and industry.

One common use in the home is in biological washing powders. These contain amylase, lipases and proteases and break down any stains that contain carbohydrate, fat and protein.  They therefore digest “biological” stains from the clothes. Since enzymes work at a low temperature this saves electricity and makes them good for delicate fabrics.

Some people, however, are allergic to the enzymes and suffer skin problems.

Enzymes in food

Many enzymes are used in the preparation of many different foods.

For example, amylases which are present in yeast are used in brewing and baking to convert sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Proteases are used in tenderising meat. Rennin is essential to create cheese.

Invertase is used to make some soft centred sweets such as thin chocolate covered mints.  A thick, almost solid, paste of sucrose and a little water containing invertase is covered in chocolate and left at room temperature for a few days.  The sucrose is converted into a mixture of glucose and fructose which creates a soft centre to the chocolate..

Other uses of enzymes

Enzymes are used in many industrial processes.

Here are some examples of enzymes and their uses.

  • Amylases - used in textile and paper production
  • Ficin - used in photography processes
  • Pepsin - used in the pharmaceutical industry
  • Bacterial proteases - used in making leather, textiles and in laundry
  • Catalase - used in rubber production
  • Taq polymerase - used in amplifying DNA found at crime scenes

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