By Claudio Azurmendi
Applying known technologies to everyday practical uses has become commonplace for consumer products, and enzymes are no exception. Probiotic yogurt, laundry detergent, and shampoos use enzymes because of their effectiveness and versatility. In fact, health store shelves sport enzyme products promising to work all sorts of miracles, including improved digestive systems, strengthening hair and giving it shine, and keeping oils and greases from leaving unsightly stains on clothes allowing them to last longer.
The success of enzyme use in consumer products has overflowed into pools and spas, and the recreational water industry has embraced their use for supplemental maintenance purposes.
An extra combatant
If used correctly, enzymes can eliminate oils and other organic contaminants in pools and spas, which lead to waterline formation, frequent filter media cleaning, and cloudy water.
How do enzymes perform such tasks? Oils and greases will accumulate overtime if not broken down properly. Hot spots for oil accumulation are the filter bed and waterline. Routine activities such as sanitizing, oxidizing, and brushing keep accumulations to a minimum; however, applying an enzyme product provides an extra combatant against the build-up of oil and grease, while also decreasing the likelihood of waterline formation and cloudy water.
Further, organic material that collects on filter media can impede efficiency. Enzymes also work to breakdown this material, giving the filtration system back its swagger. Sanitizer and oxidizer usage can also be decreased when using an enzyme product as it helps to breakdown organic contaminants, allowing sanitizers (e.g. chlorine) to focus more on killing bacteria.
Enzymes have a unique way of achieving the performance profile just described. Chemical reactions often need a drill sergeant to speed them up and make sure everything goes smoothly.
Chemicals known as catalysts perform this function. Another feature of catalysts is they do not deplete while performing their duties. For instance, a catalyst can be likened to a wedding planner. They are not getting married or part of the wedding party, and therefore their lives are not going to be changed as a result of the wedding; however, their duties are integral to the process. Once their current wedding is complete, the wedding planner moves on to the next one. The wedding planner is the catalyst, which moves the process along more quickly and smoothly to completion.
Enzymes are a specific type of catalyst made up of globular proteins, which consist of long chains of amino acids. A model of a typical enzyme is depicted in Figure 1.
The long chain of amino acids comprises an enzyme, which form twists and folds. The active sites of enzymes are embedded within these twists and folds and are where the catalytic reactions occur. When an enzyme is applied to a body of water it comes in contact with organic material and binds to it at the active site. From there, the enzyme breaks the organic material into smaller pieces. Once this process is complete, the small pieces are released, and the enzyme is free to perform the reaction over again.
In a swimming pool setting, these smaller pieces will be filtered out instead of clinging to the waterline or causing cloudy water.