Image: A handout image show several bottles growing microalgae with high oil content
HO  /  Reuters
A series of algae-based oils and powders could soon be used in the biofuel, food, aquaculture, neutraceutical and pharmaceutical industries.
updated 5/2/2011 6:31:14 PM ET 2011-05-02T22:31:14

Remember a few years ago when everyone decided that using algae as a biofuel feedstock would be the best thing ever? Well, progress on that front is moving so slowly that companies have realized that that might not be where the money is. But there is still all this algae lying around.

So, instead, a handful of ambitious biofuel and algae production startups have decided to put their product into every segment imaginable — we're talking about putting algae in your makeup, your protein supplements and even your medication. Now Aurora Algae has unveiled its mysterious-sounding A2 Product Portfolio — a series of algae-based oils and powders that will be used in the biofuel, food, aquaculture, neutraceutical and pharmaceutical industries. What will happen when all the products you use have everyone's favorite aquatic vegetable added to them?

Heart-healthy supplements: As it stands, Omega-3 supplements (they help keep your heart in good shape) are usually made with fish oil, a major source of the fatty acids. It's also a major source of killing lots of fish. Aurora Algae's family of Omega-3 oils are made with — you guessed it — algae. That means vegetarians can pop Omega-3 pills without feeling guilty.

Medication: Algae can also be added to more traditional medications; its anti-inflammatory properties could one day help with conditions like arthritis. But really, the medical possibilities are endless: according to one recent study, protein from algae can even be used to treat SARS infections.

Protein drinks: You may not notice the difference when your favorite protein drink contains algae — but the company behind the product certainly will. Algae is infinitely scalable (there's a reason we call it seaweed) and cheap, meaning it's one of the easiest places for food and beverage companies to grab the protein they need for their products.

Fish food: This doesn't affect humans directly, but algae is important for the aquaculture industry, which is expected to double in size by 2030. The demand for cheap, renewable protein sources is high — and Aurora Algae is there to help. Plus, the company tells us that algae "has a taste palette that animals prefer." Seriously.

Moisturizer: Aurora Algae isn't working on cosmetics, but an algae biofuel company called Solazyme has already launched head-first into the market with its Algenist skincare line. The company's proprietary algae-based compound is supposedly more effective at triggering skin elastin production, inhibiting melanin production and protecting against UV-triggered cell damage than other popular skin care products.

We'll have to wait awhile for most of these algae-infused products to start appearing; Aurora is still in talks with distributors for its algae oils and powders. But if you're really eager to get in on the wonders of algae, head to Sephora — the Algenist product line is already on sale.

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