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Chapter 7 Algal biotechnology

Sara B. Pereira

Abstract

Algae are an ancient group of photosynthetic organisms with ubiquitous distribution and high morphological diversity, including the unicellular microalgae and the complex multicellular macroalgae (commonly known as seaweeds). The extensive biological diversity of algae provides a good opportunity to explore these organisms for the production of a wide range of valuable products. In addition, algae-derived products are produced at the expense of CO2, contributing to decrease the levels of this greenhouse gas in the atmosphere and to alleviate the problems associated with the depletion of fossil fuels. As a result, the field of algal biotechnology has significantly developed and expanded towards novel fields of applications. This chapter provides an outline of the recent developments in algal biotechnology, focusing on three high-value products successfully produced at industrial scale, namely, omega-3 fatty acids and astaxanthin from microalgae and polysaccharides produced by macroalgae. Current challenges and strategies to overcome limitations and promote a sustainable, “green” and efficient algae-based bio-economy are also discussed.

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