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ASA Spezialenzyme GmbH – more biogas thanks to optimised enzymes

ASA Spezialenzyme GmbH offers solutions for a broad range of applications – enzymes for quicker biogas production, enzymes for rust removal or enzymes for the production of new biopolymers in cars. The company has been coming up with innovative ideas for the biotechnology market ever since it was established in 1991.

When Dr. Arno Cordes founded ASA Spezialenzyme GmbH in 1991, one of his major goals was to develop enzymes for industrial applications. The business activities of ASA Spezialenzyme GmbH cover the development and production of enzymes, microbial mixed cultures and other biotechnological products. ASA Spezialenzyme GmbH is also focused on contract research which involves the tailor-made production of enzymes and microorganisms according to the requirements of its clients.

Bacteria reduce the growth of bacteria

Pond before and after treatment with mixed cultures © ASA Spezialenzyme GmbH

"Our biggest seller is bacterial mixed cultures," said Arno Cordes. ASA Spezialenzyme GmbH offers bacterial mixed cultures for maintaining the ecosystem of aquacultures, ponds and lakes. The cultures contain nitrifying and denitrifying bacteria which reduce ammonium, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate in water in order to improve its quality. The bacteria also lead to the reduction of the mud layer and curb excessive algal growth. Lipases produced from other bacterial mixed cultures are used for the removal of fat residues in large-scale catering establishments.

Another major business area is the production of enzymes such as cellulases which are able to degrade cellulose- and hemicellulose-containing raw materials such as straw, rape and grass turning them into glucose, which the microorganisms convert into bioethanol or biogas. "The majority of cellulases are used in the bioenergy industry," said Cordes going on to point out that the company is working on increasing biogas plant yields. This new project focuses on enzyme systems that are specifically tailored for use in biogas plants, in that they enable the bacteria to better decompose the substrates. This could potentially speed up the formation of methane. The use of enzymes during hydrolysis leads to smaller polymer fragments that can be more easily taken up by the bacteria and fermented more effectively. "Our major goal is to improve the enzymes," said Cordes referring to the fact that currently available enzymes are far from perfect.

ASA Spezialenzyme GmbH laboratory. © ASA Spezialenzyme GmbH

ASA Spezialenzyme GmbH also focuses on the improvement of phytases, which are enzymes that are used as additives in the animal feed industry. Phytases are enzymes that break down (hydrolyse) phytic acid, thereby enhancing the nutritive value of plant material by liberating inorganic phosphate from phytic acid. Since humans and animals do not produce this enzyme, they cannot utilise the phosphate bound in phytic acid, which is therefore excreted. "The phosphate released by the bacteria in sewage plants leads to the eutrophication of water," said Cordes. Thus, the addition of phytases to animal feed has a two-fold benefit as it enhances the availability of bound nutrients like phosphate and also improves water quality. ASA Spezialenzyme GmbH has already succeeded in producing more effective phytases. The new bacterial strain will now be optimised and is expected to be launched in the not-too-distant future.

Biotechnological removal of rust

Working with Prof. Dr. Peter M. Kunz from the Mannheim University of Applied Sciences in a three-year, BMBF-funded project, ASA Spezialenzyme GmbH has developed a bacterial strain that produces large quantities of siderophores. Prof. Kunz, who acts as a consultant to the company, previously discovered that the iron-binding bacterial peptides are suitable for the removal of rust. In the years following Kunz’ discovery, ASA Spezialenzyme developed a gel that is now sold around the world by the company Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG. ASA Spezialenzyme also sells an immersion bath with siderophores.

ASA Spezialenzyme GmbH is also a partner in a BMBF-funded research project that focuses on the development of a new biomaterial based on lignin. The ARBOCAR project involves seven partners who hope that the use of new enzymes will enable them to produce a material for use in car passenger compartments. “We are working on reducing the smell of lignin by using laccases, enzymes that are usually used to bleach jeans. Laccases catalyse the oxidation of phenolic substances, thereby improving the smell of lignin materials. It is envisaged that the innovative bioplastic ARBOFORM will soon be used for the manufacture of steering wheels and gearshifts.

Website address: https://www.biooekonomie-bw.de/en/articles/news/asa-spezialenzyme-gmbh-more-biogas-thanks-to-optimised-enzymes