Biotechnological Potentials of Microalgae: Past and Present Scenario
Shukla Madhulika, Dhar Dolly Wattal*
Centre for Conservation and Utilisation of Blue Green Algae, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi-110012
*Corresponding author Email: email@example.com
Increased population, shortage of fossil fuels and climatic changes constitute global challenges demanding actions and strategic planning for securing access of food, feed, biochemicals and other biotechnological potentials in future. Therefore, alternative sources demand innovative thinking and microalgal biomass offers a great potential for meeting future challenges. These do not need agricultural soil for growth and their cultivation requires 99% less fresh water than conventional agriculture. They exhibit high biomass yields per unit area and there is no CO2 emissions compared to fossil fuels. Microalgae can be used to enhance the nutritional value of food and animal feed owing to their chemical composition. They play a crucial role in aquaculture and fish feeding and can be incorporated in cosmetics. Although these offer the potential to produce high yields of proteins, however, only few like Spirulina have been exploited commercially. Potential for the pigments namely chlorophyll, carotenoids and phycobilins and enzymes like lactamase, protease and lipase are being assessed by the researchers. Additionally, utilization of algal biomass for vitamins, toxins, enzymes and biochemicals of therapeutic significance is being studied. Many are used in nutritional supplements and cosmetics utilizing Dunaliella, Spirulina, Chlorella, Haematococcus etc. The production of beta carotene from Dunaliella in open raceway ponds was possible by the organism's ability to withstand high salinity. The fresh water alga Haematococcus produces astaxanthin which has found use in fish aquaculture (red colour of Salmon fish) as well as innovative anti-inflammatory and antioxidant applications in human nutrition. The lipids of Nannochloropsis are used in cosmoceutical and skin care applications and efforts are underway to move into nutrition applications. The more specific components of some algae known as omega-3 fatty acids are very important in products directed at maintaining heart health. Researches in such directions can bring about potential economic benefits in the form of commercial opportunities, start up of new companies and jobs as well as environmental benefits, reduced used of agricultural land, carbon dioxide reduction and increase of oxygen release to the atmosphere.