Hydrolysis is a double decomposition reaction in which water breaks one or more chemical bonds to form new substances. Hydrolysis is an example of a nucleophilic substitution reaction, in which electron-rich water molecules act as nucleophiles and replace functional groups in electron-deficient (AKA electrophile) molecules. While hydrolysis is a widespread chemical reaction, it is also essential due to its commercial, industrial, and everyday uses. Here are ten reasons why hydrolysis is so important:
#1. Hydrolysis is involved in various simple chemical reactions
Hydrolysis is one of the most widespread chemical reactions that sets apart chemicals by simply adding water. There are several types of hydrolysis that can be categorized based on the reactants. For instance, hydrolysis of salts occurs when salt from a weak base or acid is dissolved in water. This reaction is considered the most common type of hydrolysis. Generally speaking, water can act as an acid or a base in hydrolysis reactions and this is explained by the Bronsted-Lowry theory.
#2. Hydrolysis occurs in living organisms
Hydrolysis reactions are primarily used to break down polymers into monomers and this is exactly what happens in living organisms. When consuming different foods, our digestive system breaks down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into smaller molecules, enabling resulting compounds to be absorbed by our cells. Hydrolysis is one of the biochemical reactions that converts complex compounds into monomers. The process is catalyzed by a class of enzymes known as hydrolases.
#3. Hydrolysis of ATP and ADP releases energy stored in phosphoanhydride bonds
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) hydrolysis also occurs in living organisms and this catabolic reaction is responsible for releasing energy stored in phosphoanhydride bonds. When ATP is hydrolyzed, a phosphoanhydride bond is broken and one phosphate group is removed. As a result, energy is released and ATP is converted into adenosine diphosphate (ADP). In a similar manner, ADP can be further hydrolyzed to form adenosine monophosphate (AMP) and release even more energy.
#4. Sucrose hydrolysis is widely used in the food industry
Sucrose, commonly known as “table sugar,” is a disaccharide composed of glucose and fructose. In the hydrolysis of sucrose, a covalent bond between the two monosacharides is broken, resulting in the formation of glucose and fructose. While sucrose has to be broken down first, glucose and fructose can be absorbed directly into your blood. This is why sucrose hydrolysis is a widely used technique used for the production of syrups, foods, and beverages.
#5. Cellulose hydrolysis produces simple sugars that can be transformed into biofuels
Cellulases are enzymes that facilitate the hydrolysis process of cellulose and break down the molecules into simple sugars, AKA monosaccharides. Research shows that cellulase enzymes significantly reduce costs of plant biomass breakdown. Therefore, hydrolysis of cellulose is of considerable importance, especially when it comes to economic aspects. As cellulose is a major constituent of plants that are available for consumption, reducing costs and using the most efficient way to break down the molecules is of huge importance. Besides, simple sugars produced by the hydrolysis of cellulose can be further converted into biofuels.
#6. Esters are hydrolyzed to produce carboxylic acids, carboxylate salts, and soap molecules
If you have already heard about the esterification, then hydrolysis of esters is just a reverse reaction. When hydrolyzing an ester under acidic conditions, a carboxylic acid and an alcohol are formed. However, hydrolysis of esters in the presence of a strong base result in the formation of carboxylate salts and alcohols. When it comes to long-chain esters, or fatty acid esters, the hydrolysis reaction under basic conditions leads to the formation of fatty acid salts, or soap molecules. The reaction is known as saponification and this is what makes the hydrolysis of esters so important.
#7. Fats and oils are hydrolyzed to form glycerol and fatty acids
Fats and oils are esters of triglycerides and fatty acids, the hydrolysis of which result in the formation of glycerol and fatty acids. This process is catalyzed by an enzyme called lipase. The hydrolysis of fats and oils is commercially important because the products of the reaction (fatty acids) are used in producing synthetic detergents, lubricants, soap, and various cosmetic products.
#8. Hydrolysis is a simple treatment method to convert non-fluorescent compounds to fluorescent ones
Flurorescence is a physical property of a compound to absorb light at a particula wavelength and emit it at another. This property is often used for analyzing molecules and hydrolysis is one of the easiest techniques that allows scientists to convert non-fluorescent compounds into fluorescent ones. According to the Encyclopedia of Analytical Science, hydrolysis has been identified as a successful technique for the determination of carbamate pesticides and organophosphorus insecticides.
#9. Hydrolysis of pesticides is an effective disposal method
Hydrolysis of a pesticide involves a reaction of that particular pesticide with water molecules. The process is often catalyzed by a proton, hydroxide, or inorganic ions. Carbamates are often used in the production of insecticides, the hydrolysis of which forms alcohols and amines. As long as the pH and temperature is selected accordingly, hydrolysis of pesticides can be considered a possible disposal method.
#10. Catalytic hydrolysis is one of the best ways to break down CFCs
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have been widely used as foaming agents, fire-extinguishing agents, and refrigerants. Although these compounds are considered safe due to their chemical properties, CFCs that diffuse in the stratosphere facilitate ozon depletion. However, this can be prevented by catalytically hydrolyzing CFCs. Along with being an energetically favorable approach, hydrolysis of CFCs converts the chemicals into compounds that are much safer for the environment.