Microalgae are a very diverse group of microorganisms that do photosynthesis and are widespread worldwide. Due to differences in structure, they are not considered to be higher plants. You can find them in the air, but above all in fresh and salt water. They differ in color, shape, size or metabolic products. Only a few 10,000 species are known to date. However, it is estimated that there are still around 150,000 undescribed algae strains worldwide. Of the species known to date, around 20 are used today for the industrial production of ingredients for food supplements and animal feed, care products, oils or pharmaceuticals.
Microalgae are often confused with cyanobacteria. The latter are also incorrectly referred to as ‘blue-green algae’ and are often found in so-called algal blooms. Their bluish color pigments give them their cyan appearance. Since they are bacteria (prokaryotes) that do photosynthesis, they are not considered to be microalgae (eukaryotes). However, they are already used for industrial purposes (e.g. Spirulina).