The following is excerpted from the research and writings of Dr. Mark Edwards, one of the world’s foremost authorities on algae.
Algal biomass composition includes primarily lipids, used to produce biofuel, and starches and proteins with food value. Lipids are long carbon chain molecules. Lipids store energy for the plant and serve as the structural components of cell membranes. Proteins are large organic compounds made of amino acids arranged in a linear chain connected by peptide bonds. The plant’s genetic code determines the sequence of the amino acids but nutrient limitations may cause changes to the production of amino acids. Most proteins are enzymes that catalyze biochemical reactions and plant metabolism. Other proteins maintain cell shape and provide signaling functions. Starches are complex carbohydrates which are insoluble in water. Plants use starches to store glucose, plant sugar. The composition variation among species varies tremendously. Some algae hold 80% lipids while others are 60% protein and still others are 92% carbohydrates.