AskDefine | Define alginate

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Any salt or ester of alginic acid.

Extensive Definition

Alginic acid (algin, alginate) is a viscous gum that is abundant in the cell walls of brown algae.


Chemically, it is a linear copolymer with homopolymeric blocks of (1-4)-linked β-D-mannuronate (M) and its C-5 epimer α-L-guluronate (G) residues, respectively, covalently linked together in different sequences or blocks.
The monomers can appear in homopolymeric blocks of consecutive G-residues (G-blocks), consecutive M-residues (M-blocks), alternating M and G-residues (MG-blocks) or randomly organized blocks.


Commercial varieties of alginate are extracted from seaweed, including the giant kelp Macrocystis pyrifera, Ascophyllum nodosum and various types of Laminaria.
Alginate absorbs water quickly, which makes it useful as an additive in dehydrated products such as slimming aids, and in the manufacture of paper and textiles. It is also used for waterproofing and fireproofing fabrics, as a gelling agent, for thickening drinks, ice cream and cosmetics, and as a detoxifier that can absorb poisonous metals from the blood. Alginate is also produced by certain bacteria, notably Azotobacter species.
Alginate ranges from white to yellowish brown, and takes filamentous, grainy, granular, and powdered forms. It is insoluble in water and organic solvents, and dissolves slowly in basic solutions of sodium carbonate, sodium hydroxide and trisodium phosphate.


Alginate is used in various pharmaceutical preparations such as Gaviscon, Bisodol, Asilone. Alginate is used extensively as a mold-making material in dentistry, prosthetics, lifecasting, and in textiles. It is also used in the food industry, for thickening soups and jellies. Calcium alginate is used in different types of medical products, including burn dressings that promote healing and which can be removed with less pain than conventional dressings.
Also, due to alginate's biocompatibility and simple gelation with divalent cations such as Ca 2+, it is widely used for cell immobilization and encapsulation.
Alginic acid (alginato) is also used in culinary arts, most notably in the "Esferificación" (Sphereification) techniques of Ferrán Adriá of Barcelona's El Bulli, in which natural juices of fruits and vegetables are encapsulated in bubbles that "explode" on the tongue when consumed. One of the most famous examples of this use of alginic acid is where Ferran Adria used alginic acid to make apple caviar.
Due to its ability to absorb water quickly, Alginate can be changed through a lyophilization process to a new structure which has the ability to expand. It is used in the weight loss industry as an appetite suppressant. A new type of diet using Alginate is the CM3-Alginate Diet.
alginate in Danish: Alginsyre
alginate in German: Alginsäure
alginate in French: Alginate
alginate in Hungarian: Alginát
alginate in Dutch: Natriumalginaat
alginate in Japanese: アルギン酸
alginate in Portuguese: Algina
alginate in Russian: Альгиновая кислота
alginate in Finnish: Algiinihappo
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