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Shelby Newsad: The Future of Algae

Updated: Feb 8, 2019

Last week we were lucky enough to have PhD student Shelby Newsad, from the University of Cambridge, present her research on the utility of algae within the modern world.


This multi-functional organism has great potential for use with pharmacology, as both a human and animal food source, for waste water treatment and as an energy source. This makes it an incredibly exciting future prospect for more eco-friendly, renewable solutions. Shelby’s work focuses mainly on the use of algae as a vitamin-enriched human food source. Requiring CO2 to grow, algae absorbs and replaces it with O2 producing clean air all whilst continuing to grow and ultimately provide a highly nutritious food source. With a complete amino acid profile it constitutes a complete protein, supporting various human metabolic processes and containing numerous minerals and nutrients. Shelby’s research and work for Alginity (a company focused on the use of algae as a nutritional source, backed by the European Space Agency) is hoping to fully harness the vast range of benefits of this food source in the coming years.


The use of Spirulina and Chlorella varieties of green algae have demonstrated antimicrobial, antioxidant and lipid-lowering activity allowing them to be used in pharmacological processes. As such it is certainly a product which will likely be influential within the field in the future.


Outside the pharma and health field, algae has brilliant potential as an environmentally-friendly alternative to wastewater treatment, energy sourcing and plastics. Microalgae culture is already being used as a tertiary bio treatment step for waste water treatment. Additionally, in terms of biofuel, algae can produce as much as 5,000 biofuel gallons from a single acre in one year, making it hugely economically viable. Single-use plastics are one of the most damaging products currently produced, resulting in huge efforts to find eco-friendly alternatives. Algae again provides an answer here, with companies using it to create “green plastics”.


Scientific research into the use of algae and other sustainable substances for everyday processes and essential tasks is sure to provide fascinating results in the near future and is certainly one to watch!


Fiona Williams


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