Australian National Algae Culture Collection

Bioapplications of algae

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Research associated with the Australian National Algae Culture Collection (ANACC) has shown Australian microalgae to have unique chemical, molecular and physiological characteristics.

This biodiversity is displayed in a range of bioactive compounds that have medical, human health, aquafeed and energy applications. 

thraustochytrid

Some strains of marine algae can be cultured on an industrial scale to produce large quantities of oils. For example, thraustochytrids such as those pictured above are a promising source of polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Microalgae for biofuels

The CSIRO Energy Transformed Flagship (ETF) is exploring the potential for biofuels from algae. Some microalgae contain high levels of oils with a composition suitable for biodiesel and other fuels. As well, microalgal biomass can be converted to or used directly as fuel.

The Energy Transformed Flagship is selecting and optimising ANACC strains for biodiesel potential and for co-products including pigments and novel lipids.

High biomass cultivation of microalgae has the potential to not only produce biofuels and valuable co-products, but also to mitigate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as they photosynthesise and grow.

A rich source of omega-3 oils

Microalgae also are a source of genes that regulate the biosynthetic pathways of unique and valuable bioactive molecules.

Microalgae are the primary source of omega-3 LC-PUFA in the marine food chain and fish obtain omega-3 LC-PUFA from microalgae through their diet. There is concern that predicted increases in the global demand for LC-PUFA over coming decades cannot be met sustainably from marine sources.

The CSIRO Food Futures Flagship is investigating sustainable production of omega-3 oils – long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA) – that have human health benefits including cardiovascular protection and improved cognitive development and function.The Flagship has introduced microalgal omega-3 LC-PUFA biosynthetic pathways into crop plants, thus ensuring a secure supply for the future.

Microalgae and related microorganisms known as thraustochytrids also have potential as primary sources of omega-3 oils. ANACC strains are being evaluated as single cell oil sources for industrial-scale production.

Exopolysaccharides

The CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Flagship is investigating exopolysaccharides (EPS) from microorganisms for new, bioinspired adhesives as well as for medical, environmental and industrial use. Microalgae from the collection are being screened and characterised for EPS production, and EPS-producing bacteria from the extreme Antarctic environment are being developed.

microalgae

The small green algae Nannochloropsis is used in the aquaculture industry to grow small zooplankton such as rotifers.