Microalgae Biotechnology

Applied algology (part of microalgae biotechnology) includes the different divisions of microscopic eukaryotic algae and the oxygen producing photosynthetic bacteria (cyanobacteria). The microalgae usually live in water, but can be found on the surface of different soil types. Soil algae, comparing to aquatic microalgae, live in a much more extreme and rapidly changing physical, chemical and biological environment. They are more valuable for biotechnology than aquatic microalgae because they respond to the constantly changing stress conditions by producing bioactive substances and by their adaptive metabolism.

Microalgae usually produce secondary metabolites at the declining phase of growth. These are important biotechnological products for humanity. These include organic acids, carbohydrates, amino acids, peptides, vitamins, growth regulating substances, antibiotics, enzymes and toxic compounds. The bioactive materials of algae are in focus for more than a half century. Today, they are mostly the potential raw materials of pharmaceutical and agricultural industry. Recent decline in social acceptance of synthetic pesticides and medicines enhanced the research of the naturally-occurring active ingredients which is supported by the European Union, as well.

Algae are particularly valuable for agriculture because of their plant growth regulating and plant protecting compounds. The idea of the production of valuable materials and the development of closed algae producing equipment gave new impulse to the microalgae biotechnology in the 1980s. The high costs of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), polysaccharides, antioxidants, natural pigments, biologically active materials and the cosmetic, food and pharmaceutical raw materials made profitable the production of valuable compounds from microalgae, even if it needed high investment and running costs.