February 14, 2012

Research under way to harness algae qualities

A research cell under the marine biotechnology department of the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute here is conducting research into harnessing the qualities of various algae for diverse uses such as making biofuels, carbon dioxide sequestration, waste water treatment, livestock feed, high protein nutrients and others.

“Bio-chemical profiling of more than 150 algae has been done. These have been cultured and steps are being initiated to look at developing food products, bio-diesel and aquaculture and hatchery feed,” said the department head, Dr K.K. Vijayan.

As a next step, the institute would look at isolating the genes that give these algae their qualities, so that know-how can be given to the industry for the manufacture of different food products and other uses.

Culturing of these algae, massive production and supply to various end-users would also contribute to putting a check on climate change since these algae absorb a lot of carbon-dioxide and instead release oxygen, says the senior research fellow, Ms Preetha. K. They have been seen as major contributors to carbon dioxide sequestration and waste water treatments.

The demand for these algae, also “green cell factories”, has been growing over the years.

The high protein content make them an unconventional food source and some of them have the essential fatty acids and are the rich sources of long chain poly unsaturated fatty acids.

Besides, some of them can also be used as natural colourants. They can have a number of neutraceutical and pharmaceutical applications.

Some of the microalgae are sold as health food or food supplement in the form of tablets, capsules and liquids and they act as antioxidants and probiotics, she adds.

Certain species of microalgae contain high amounts of oil which could be processed and refined into transportation fuels. A section of the microalgae can also be used as bio-fertilizers.

“The research would look at new technical approaches in mass culture, in designing photobioreactors,”Dr Vijayan added.

and in processing methods which will support the extensive production systems. Genetic modification would also be a new area of research, Dr Vijayan added.

Original post available here.

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