Today algae are commercially cultivated for pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, cosmetics, and aquaculture purposes. The abundance of vitamins, minerals, and trace elements as well as the fatty acid profile and thickening and stabilizing functions of their polysaccharides make algae valuable. Algae also can be used to produce biodiesel, bioethanol, and biomass that can be burned to generate heat and electricity. Like plants, algae use sunlight during photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is an important biochemical process in which plants, algae, and some bacteria convert the energy of sunlight to chemical energy. Algae capture light energy through photosynthesis and convert inorganic substances such as CO2 into simple sugars or oils using the captured energy.
Several factors (e.g., light, temperature, pH, nutrients, aeration, and mixing rate) can be measured to determine the growth rate of algae. To optimize yield, algae is cultivated in closed photobioreactors. Within those, process conditions can be accurately controlled, and no infection-carrying algae species will occur. The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) focuses on development and modeling phototrophic bioprocesses of green and red algae for the production of high-value products. Major parts of its research are application- and industry-oriented projects, which are executed in collaboration with academic and industrial partners.