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The chemical reaction that occurs in fermentation can be described quite easily. Starch is converted to simple sugars such as sucrose and glucose. Those sugars are then converted to alcohol (ethyl alcohol) and carbon dioxide. This description does not adequately convey the complexity of the fermentation process itself. During the 1930s, two German biochemists, G. Embden and O. Meyerhof, worked out the sequence of reactions by which glucose ferments.

In a sequence of twelve reactions, glucose is converted to ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide. A number of enzymes are needed to carry out this sequence of reactions, the most important of which is zymase, found in yeast cells. These enzymes are sensitive to environmental conditions in which they live. When the concentration of alcohol reaches about 14%, they are inactivated. For this reason, no fermentation product (such as wine) can have an alcoholic concentration of more than about 14%.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Evolution to FerrocyanideFermentation - History, Theory, Uses