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.
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.
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.