Biotechnology / Enzymes
Biotechnology and enzymes have a vital role in the manufacturing of leather and the use of biocatalysts is now considered to be state-of-the-art for the processing of animal skins and hides.
“Proteases and lipases are key enzyme types in the leather processing”
Proteases and lipases are key enzyme types in the leather processing, which are active against protein and fat components of the skin respectively. Other enzyme activities against other biological components present in the skin may also bring about future opportunities for green processing, especially in the beamhouse. Currently proteases are used extensively for the soaking, liming and bating operations and lipases formulations are commercially available to assist with the dispersion of natural fat within the skin substrate. The use of enzymes for other applications, such as the use of transglutaminase to facilitate tanning and dyeing reactions and phospholipase to target specific complex lipids such as sebaceous grease, has been the subject of promising research. Additionally, there has been a renewed prominence on the use of enzymes to utilise waste products from the leather making process; examples include the use of lipases to produce biodiesel from waste animal fats and the use of a thermophilic protease to convert waste protein to bioethanol. The employment of proteases to recover chromium from chrome containing protein waste has been the focus of considerable research.