- Chlorella autotrophica
- Chlorella coloniales
- 椭圆小球藻 Chlorella ellipsoidea
- Chlorella lewinii
- 小綠球藻 Chlorella minutissima
- Chlorella pituita
- Chlorella pulchelloides
- 蛋白核小球藻 Chlorella pyrenoidosa
- Chlorella rotunda
- Chlorella singularis
- Chlorella sorokiniana
- Chlorella variabilis
- Chlorella volutis
- 普通小球藻 Chlorella vulgaris
To cope with the upcoming postwar population boom in the United States and elsewhere, researchers decided to tap into the unexploited sea resources. Initial testing by the Stanford Research Institute showed Chlorella (when growing in warm, sunny, shallow conditions) could convert 20% of solar energy into a plant that, when dried, contains 50% protein. In addition, Chlorella contains fat and vitamins. The plant's photosynthetic efficiency allows it to yield more protein per unit area than any plant—one scientist predicted 10,000 tons of protein a year could be produced with just 20 workers staffing a 1000-acre (4-km2) Chlorella farm. The pilot research performed at Stanford and elsewhere led to immense press from journalists and newspapers, yet did not lead to large-scale algae production. Chlorella seemed like a viable option because of the technological advances in agriculture at the time and the widespread acclaim it got from experts and scientists who studied it. Algae researchers had even hoped to add a neutralized Chlorella powder to conventional food products, as a way to fortify them with vitamins and minerals.
When the preliminary laboratory results were published, the scientific community at first backed the possibilities of Chlorella. Science News Letter praised the optimistic results in an article entitled "Algae to Feed the Starving". John Burlew, the editor of the Carnegie Institution of Washington book Algal Culture-from Laboratory to Pilot Plant, stated, "the algae culture may fill a very real need," which Science News Letter turned into "future populations of the world will be kept from starving by the production of improved or educated algae related to the green scum on ponds." The cover of the magazine also featured Arthur D. Little's Cambridge laboratory, which was a supposed future food factory. A few years later, the magazine published an article entitled "Tomorrow's Dinner", which stated, "There is no doubt in the mind of scientists that the farms of the future will actually be factories." Science Digest also reported, "common pond scum would soon become the world's most important agricultural crop." However, in the decades since those claims were made, algae have not been cultivated on that large of a scale.
Since the growing world food problem of the 1940s was solved by better crop efficiency and other advances in traditional agriculture, Chlorella has not seen the kind of public and scientific interest that it had in the 1940s. Chlorella has only a niche market for companies promoting it as a dietary supplement.
The experimental research was carried out in laboratories, rather than in the field, and scientists discovered that Chlorella would be much more difficult to produce than previously thought. To be practical, the algae grown would have to be placed either in artificial light or in shade to produce at its maximum photosynthetic efficiency. Also, for the Chlorella to be as productive as the world would require, it would have to be grown in carbonated water, which would have added millions to the production cost. A sophisticated process, and additional cost, was required to harvest the crop, and, for Chlorella to be a viable food source, its cell walls would have to be pulverized. The plant could reach its nutritional potential only in highly modified artificial situations. Another problem was developing sufficiently palatable food products from Chlorella.Although the production of Chlorella looked promising and involved creative technology, it has not to date been cultivated on the scale some had predicted. It has not been sold on the scale of Spirulina, soybean products, or whole grains. Costs have remained high, and Chlorella has for the most part been sold as a health food, for cosmetics, or as animal feed. After a decade of experimentation, studies showed that following exposure to sunlight, Chlorella captured just 2.5% of the solar energy, not much better than conventional crops. Chlorella, too, was found by scientists in the 1960s to be impossible for humans and other animals to digest in its natural state due to the tough cell walls encapsulating the nutrients, which presented further problems for its use in American food production.
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