Seaweeds are distributed widely in all oceans of the world, but exploited in limited areas. These plants have been used for food and as soil conditioners for centuries, with industrial application of extractives a relatively recent innovation generally limited to the more developed areas of the world. There are relatively few species of industrial importance, and these occur in both the red (Rhodophyta) and brown (Phaeophyta) algal divisions.
The principal value of phycocolloids is in their gelling and stabilizing properties. Species of red algae may elaborate agar or carrageenan. Both are complex polysaccharides with innumerable structural possibilities, hence physical properties, and phycocolloids from various species can have specific applications. Carrageenans are employed mostly in the food industry, and agars in both the food and pharmaceutical sectors of the economy. Alginates, another family of complex polysaccharides, are obtained from various species of brown algae and are the third major algal gum of commerce. Alginates are used in the food and pharmaceutical industries and have other industrial applications.
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McLachlan, J. Macroalgae (seaweeds): industrial resources and their utilization. Plant Soil 89, 137–157 (1985). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02182240
- Seaweed extractives