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BIOTECHNOLOGY OF MICROALGAE

Unicellular photosynthetic organisms play a key role in the formation of organic compounds and oxygen on Earth, and they have an important ecological value. Practical interest in microalgae is associated with their unique potential as producers of valuable metabolites, vitamins, and a number of other organic compounds. In addition, unicellular photosynthetic organisms are regarded as some alternative to traditional agriculture, due to the high photosynthetic productivity, ability to conduct photosynthesis in industrial environments with low dependence on the season and weather conditions, with the use of land and areas unsuitable for cultivation of higher plants.

Unlike heterotrophic microorganisms that need a variety of organic compounds for growth, microalgae produce biomass from the fully oxidized inorganic materials (carbon dioxide, water) and mineral elements at the expense of light energy converted by photosynthesis. Industrial production of microalgal biomass does not pollute the environment and require relatively small amounts of water. Current productivity of microalgae cultures is much higher than productivity of higher plants. Nevertheless, it is still very far from the potential of photosynthetic capabilities of microalgae.

The issue of productivity of microalgae have been addressed in a research laboratory created in 1955 at the Institute of Plant Physiology. The main objective of the laboratory was to develop guidelines for creating closed ecological life-support systems based on photosynthesis of microalgae.

Many studies have been carried out for almost half a century ago, however, they have not lost their relevance hitherto. Data from these studies have been published in scientific journals, reports of various conferences. However, numerous erroneous ideas tested have been never reported anywhere. Erroneous ideas tend to look very attractive. Mistakes and missleading ideas that we experienced during 40-50 years of reserch in algal biotechnology have repeated by many researchers and are often repeating nowadays, especially in the development of various types of bioreactors for the cultivation of microalgae.

Please, see a list of publications (mainly, in Russian) here.

D.Sci.
Lev N. Tsoglin