What is Microalgae?

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CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) scientists have spotlighted the potential of Chlorella Growth Factor (CGF), a protein-rich extract derived from the microalgae ‘Chlorella sorokiniana’, as an ideal ingredient for a wide range of food and feed applications.

About Microalgae:

  • They are microscopic algal species, as opposed to other algae that are macroscopic.
  • They are mostly unicellular, although some complex associations giving colonies with larger structures exist.
  • Depending on the species, their sizes can range from a few micrometers (µm) to a few hundreds of micrometers.
  • Unlike higher plants, microalgae do not have roots, stems, or leaves.
  • They are mostly photosynthetic. Their ability to photosynthesize is due to the presence of photosynthetic pigments
  • They can be found in a variety of aquatic habitats, being able to thrive in freshwater, brackish, marine, and hypersaline aquatic environments.
  • Examples of unicellular algal species are green algae, diatoms, and dinoflagellates.
  • Importance:
    • They play a pivotal role in ecosystems as primary producers.
    • Their adaptability and diverse taxonomy make them a crucial component of aquatic food webs, supporting various organisms and influencing nutrient cycling
    • They are a rich resource of lipids, proteins, carbohydrates, and pigments with nutritional and health benefits.
  • Spirulina and Chlorella, two types of microalgae, are often consumed as dietary supplements.
    • Through photosynthesis, they release oxygen as a byproduct, and thus, they are a vital contributor of oxygen in the environment. 
    • They can form symbiotic relationships with other organisms. For example, they live within the tissues of corals (zooxanthellae) and provide them with nutrients through photosynthesis.
    • Some of them are also capable of fixing nitrogen. Eg: Nostoc, Anabaena, and Oscillatoria.

Q1: What is an Algae?

Algae are a diverse group of aquatic organisms that have the ability to conduct photosynthesis. Certain algae are familiar to most people; for instance, seaweeds (such as kelp or phytoplankton), pond scum or the algal blooms in lakes. However, there exists a vast and varied world of algae that are not only helpful to us, but are critical to our existence.

Source: CSIR-IICT scientists identify microalgae as a potential protein supplement