Environment

Flexible foam made from algae

Flexible foam made from algae
Rolls of algae-derived Bloom foam – no, it won't just be available in green
Rolls of algae-derived Bloom foam – no, it won't just be available in green
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Rolls of algae-derived Bloom foam – no, it won't just be available in green
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Rolls of algae-derived Bloom foam – no, it won't just be available in green
A traction surface on a surf board, made from the foam
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A traction surface on a surf board, made from the foam

Algae is proving to be pretty darn useful – in recent years, it’s been used to produce oxygen, purify wastewater, provide light and serve as a source of biofuel. Now, bioplastics firm Algix and clean tech company Effekt are making flexible foam out of the stuff, too.

The process starts with the harvesting of algae from waste streams in the US and Asia, using a mobile floating platform. In such settings, the overly-nutrient-rich waters often create algal blooms, which in turn cause the death of aquatic life such as fish. Therefore, no additional fertilizers are required to grow the algae, and removing it can actually help the local environment.

A traction surface on a surf board, made from the foam
A traction surface on a surf board, made from the foam

That harvested algae biomass is subsequently dewatered and dried, polymerized into pellets, then combined with other compounds to ultimately form a soft, pliable foam. Depending on the formulation and intended application, the algae makes up anywhere from 15 to 60 percent of the finished product, which is said to be similar in quality to traditional petroleum-derived foam.

The material will be marketed as Bloom foam, and production should begin early next year in the US and Asia. It could find use in products such as yoga mats, sporting goods and toys.

Source: Bloom

4 comments
Racqia Dvorak
Algae is going to be a pivotal biological component for industries worldwide in the future. It's a shame we aren't seeing more of a focus on it as we realize the potential of bio-industrial technology.
Mr T
So algae is 15 to 60% of the finished product. In other words, the product is 40 to 85% other undisclosed materials, probably synthetic rubber. Given that it is all mixed together and can't be separated, this doesn't make it any more eco than regular foam products really, other than they are removing algae blooms from waterways. But the blooms only happen because of poor environmental management in the first place, so this is a bandaid measure at best. Or maybe I'm just being cynical...
YodaDude
It seems that depending on the application: EVA, PE, TPE, neoprene, etc., the formulations are created to offset conventional petro-chemical use and virgin material use whenever possible. Clearly, it's made to order for specific fields of use and each formulation is based around that need. That's pretty damn cool if you ask me...
Easy
In my world, I'm looking for floor coverings (over concrete?) that have minimal to no R value, so the concrete slab continues to affect the envelope, or wall coverings that do, have R value.
So what is the R value of this stuff? The most cost efficient we have now is polyisocyanurate. a 1" thick (R 6.2 or so per inch) 4'x8' sheet costs about $25-$30, or $.90 /foot2.