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Korea Institute of Ocean Science & Technology

KIOST Develops Technologyto Reduce Costs of Producing Microalgae Rich in Natural Astaxanthin

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  • Date : 2024-02-20
Fig 1. Haematococcus being dried using the drying film culture method in the marine microalgae culture room.jpeg 바로보기

The Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST) announced that it has developed a technology for cultivating Haematococcus, a microalga* rich in natural astaxanthin, at a lower cost than previously possible.

* Microscopic algae that produce oxygen through photosynthesis and are rich in useful metabolites such as proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals


Haematococcus is a microalga characterized by its ability to accumulate astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant, under stressful conditions such as high light, high salt, drought, and/or nutrient deficiencies. The accumulated astaxanthin is used worldwide as a high-value material in various industries such as cosmetics, medicine, and food.


Liquid culture technology was previously used to produce astaxanthin from Haematococcus, but the complex culture process and high production costs, including for large amounts of water and cell culture media,* required for large-scale cultivation were considered a problem.

* Used for microbial growth and provides nutrients in the right environmental conditions


A team of researchers, including UST student researcher Yong Kyun Ryu of the KIOST Jeju Research Institute, developed the drying film culture method (solid-state fermentation) as an alternative to liquid culture technology and published their findings in international journals.*

* Yong Kyun Ryu, Won-Kyu Lee, Woon Yong Choi et al., A novel drying film culture method applying a natural phenomenon: Increased carotenoid production by Haematococcus sp, Bioresource Technology, December 2023.


The results showed that the drying film culture method yields higher astaxanthin content than liquid culture and reduces production costs by simplifying the process. While the existing liquid culture method requires salinity, temperature, and light, among others, to be applied to Haematococcus, the drying film culture method reduces costs through a simplified process in which water is repeatedly supplied and evaporated.


The findings were notably published in Bioresource Technology (JCR* top 7.1%; Impact factor**: 11.4; mrnIF***: 100), a prestigious international journal in the field of sector coupling and integration (SCI) agricultural engineering. The paper was assessed as possessing exceptional academic value.

* JCR: a journal evaluation database based on citation data provided annually by Clarivate

** IF (impact factor): a journal impact factor calculated based on the accumulated number of articles and citations of SCI-ranked journals (higher number indicates journal’s superior quality)

*** mrnIF (modified rank normalized impact factor): a ranking of the IF, standardizing the minimum value of the index to 0 and the maximum value to 100 (The higher the index value, the more prestigious the journal is within its field.)


With the growing concern for health around the world, the drying film culture of Haematococcus is an achievement that can increase both the productivity and economy of astaxanthin. In the future, it is expected to be used to increase biomass* productivity through mass culture and be commercialized as a bioproduct.

* Total amount of organic matter produced by all living organisms through the process of photosynthesis


The research was conducted as part of the project to develop localization technology for marine bio-industrial materials supported by the Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.



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Last Update : 2024-01-31