Algae 101

Algae are the smallest and simplest form of plants, yet are responsible for a substantial amount of oxygen produced on the planet. An Alga cell can measure only micrometers in size, but can double its biomass in less than a day. They utilize sunlight, water and inorganic nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus, to grow. Due to their exponential growth, algae blooms can wreak havoc on native ecosystems by overloading water bodies when excess nutrients are available, such as agricultural run-off. Algae are composed of protein, carbohydrates and lipids, and these fractions of the biomass can be extracted and used for a variety of applications.  Algae have several advantages over traditional crops: 1) can convert waste water into biomass rich in protein, carbohydrates and in some cases, lipids; 2) have a higher photosynthetic efficiency and increased biomass productivity; 3) can be harvested nearly year-around in warm climates, providing a reliable and continuous supply of biomass; 4) can produce non-toxic and highly biodegradable biofuels and biomaterials, such as bioplastic.

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