Some 40 scientists and engineers at Utah State University's Center for Biocatalysis Science and Technology hope to develop technology to research new uses for enzymes, the center's director says.

The research could have broad applications in hazardous waste management, industry, nutrition, medicine and even molecular electronics, Linda Powers, director of the center, said. The center was established in October 1988.Enzymes enhance chemical reactions but are not destroyed in the process, she said.

"Usually, the chemical process is harmful," but the university scientists believe enzymes can break down organic materials without any dangerous side effects, she said.

"Take one of these nasties, such as PCBs" or polychlorinated biphenyls," Powers said, "Enzymes could break them and other organic substances down into carbon dioxide and water, which are not harmful."

"In hazardous waste management, extremely toxic substances could be handled safely. Enzymes literally break them up."

Scientists working on the project also will investigate how to use enzymes in the field of nutrition, such as solving some food storage problems by extending the product's aging process, Powers said.