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Commercial applications of algae: opportunities and constraints


Microalgae have three fundamental attributes that can be converted into technical and commercial advantages:

  1. (1)

    They are genetically a very diverse group of organisms with a wide range of physiological and biochemical characteristics; thus they naturally produce many different and unusual fats, sugars, bioactive compounds, etc.

  2. (2)

    They can cost-effectively incorporate the stable isotopes13C,15N and2H into their biomass, and thus into various compounds they produce.

  3. (3)

    They comprise a large, unexplored group of organisms, and thus provide a virtually untapped source of products.

The challenge in the application of microalgae to commercial ends is to focus only on those products with large market and/or profit potential, where the use of microalgae leads to clear competitive advantages. This requires a clear understanding of the practical use of the microalgal product, the market it addresses, and its advantages and cost relative to competitive products or processes. Several examples are presented.

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Radmer, R.J., Parker, B.C. Commercial applications of algae: opportunities and constraints. J Appl Phycol 6, 93–98 (1994).

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Key words

  • microalgae
  • algal products
  • algal biotechnology