In this post I respectfully offer my candidate for the best and most innovative new enzyme launched last year.
It is called LpHera, an alpha-amylase developed by Novozymes that has a lowered pH range for activity and stability. (note the clever incorporation of “pH’ in the name? I love marketing!)
The application is the liquefaction of starch.
To understand why this enzyme is considered so revolutionary, it is helpful to look at what happens during the industrial processing of starch.
After separation from the plant source (corn, wheat, or any other starchy plant), starch exists in an aqueous slurry. The next step in its processing is called liquefaction, in which alpha-amylase breaks down the large oligomeric starch molecules into maltodextrins, which are essentially smaller, more soluble starch fragments. Traditionally, liquefaction takes place at pH 5.5, and pH chemicals are required to raise pH levels before liquefaction begins because the previously available alpha amylase enzymes were insufficiently active and stable at the pH of the aqueous starch slurry. Then, at the end of the liquefaction process, further chemical additions (this time acid rather than base) are needed to ensure the lower pH necessary for the next step in starch processing, saccharification, in which the maltodextrins are further broken down into individual glucose units.
LpHera is a breakthrough enzyme because it is able to function at a considerably lower pH than other alpha amylases. According to Thomas Nilsson, Novozymes Global Launch Manager, “LpHera brings the liquefaction pH level as low as 4.5-4.8. This means you can reduce your use of pH chemicals in some instances by more than 50%.”
By engineering a new alpha-amylase that is stable and active at lower pH, a quadruple benefit is gained.
- Starch processors save on pH chemicals
- Then, there is a further savings on ion exchange resins because the lower amount of salt present extends the service cycles of the resins.
- Additional savings accrue as wastewater handling and associated energy costs are reduced.
- Finally, a 0.2% increase in the yield of dextrose is gained by the final step of starch processing.
Now, you may think that a yield increase of 0.2% does not sound like anything to get excited about, but Mr. Nilsson explains that it is truly significant. In Thomas Nilsson’s words, “… these customers are processing an enormous amount of starch every day. So an apparently small increase can be very significant.”
How significant? Novozymes has calculated that a starch processor can achieve savings of up to $1 per metric ton of substrate through a combination of boosting yields, cutting pH chemical usage, and facilitating savings in wastewater treatment and energy. Globally, an enormous amount of starch, approximately 60 million tons per year, is converted into sweeteners and ingredients per year, and these are used in a wide variety of popular consumer food products, including confectionery, soft drinks, sauces and canned fruits. So this rather mundane-sounding benefit of $1 per metric ton amounts to 60 million US dollars in incremental market opportunity.
There is an excellent video posted by Novozymes on YouTube that describes the benefits of LpHera.
For an industry that has not seen much innovation, LpHera has been called a “game-changer” and “completely new” for the production of high fructose corn syrup and other starch-derived products. It is also a sweet outcome for Novozymes.
I have put together an EBook describing the 10 best new enzymes, of which LpHera is one. You can view the info page for “10 Best New Enzymes” here: 10 Best New Enzymes