agar ä´gär, ā´–, ăg´är [key], product obtained from several species of red algae, or seaweed, chiefly from the Ceylon, or Jaffna, moss (Gracilaria lichenoides) and species of Gelidium, harvested in eastern Asia and California. Chemically, agar is a polymer made up of subunits of the sugar galactose; it is a component of the algae's cell walls. Dissolved in boiling water and cooled, agar becomes gelatinous; its chief uses are as a culture medium (particularly for bacteria) and as a laxative, but it serves also as a thickening for soups and sauces, in jellies and ice cream, in cosmetics, for clarifying beverages, and for sizing fabrics. See also Rhodophyta.
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