Algae, innovating the future

Algae are the most important photosynthetic organisms on Earth, they capture more solar energy and produce more oxygen than the sum of the rest of the plants. Algae can be found in almost every ecosystem, due to their high adaptation ability. Furthermore, biotechnology based on algae is blooming due to their multiple and useful properties.


Algae are becoming the focus of sustainable resources as biomass, production of oil, fuel or even food and feed. They can grow almost everywhere around the planet and in diverse ecosystems. Algae present many benefits such as consumption of CO2, production of O2 (estimated around 70%), water purification, biomass production or production of byproducts; chemicals, plastics, lubricants…

Algae are exceptional for bioplastic production, because of their high yield and ability to make many bioproducts, including petroleum replacements like biofuels and bioplastics. Although the use of bioplastic sourced from algae is quite new, it is experiencing a fast development. Besides, diverse industries are very interested on finding new applications to these sustainable and carbon neutral products.

In this regard, the latest application of algae technology is the production of an algae surfboard created by the University of California San Diego (UCSD), California Center for Algae Biotechnology, in collaboration with Arctic Foam and Solazyme.  This project began when undergraduate students of biology and chemistry made polyurethane foam from algae oil. Nowadays, polyurethane is source almost exclusively from petroleum. In this project, algae oil is converted into polyols and then mixed with a catalyst and silicates. After, the product obtained is a kind of expanded foam.

This new board, so-called, “surfboard of the future” is made of algal oil that is converted by UCSD into polyols. Later these polyols are sent to Arctic Foam, a surfboard manufacturer, where they are converted into polyurethane surfboard blanks and shaped into surfboards before being coated with fiberglass and a renewable plant-based resin. The polyurethane foam core is indistinguishable from other polyurethanes surfboards. This surfboard foam core is not the end, next will be to fabricate surfboards 100% from renewable resources, replacing the use of resins obtained from petroleum.

This prototype has fulfilled the expectations of surfers who have test ridden the board and are happy with these new ecoboards.

This surfboard represents the fusion between biotechnology, surf and environmental conscious thinking.

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Author:

Ana Cortijo Martin

PhD student at Université Libre de Bruxelles

Brussels, Belgium

Nanotechnology Master, Licence In Chemistry, speciality Analitycal Chemistry and Environmental Chemistry. Working experience in Petrochemistry.

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