San Diego Scientists Say They Have Create World's First Algae-Based Sustainable Surfboard

San Diego scientists say they have created the world’s first algae-based sustainable surfboard.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego and Arctic Foam, an Oceanside Company, made the polyurethane foam core and glassed the board before presenting it to San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer before Earth Day.

The project began several months ago when undergraduate biology students collaborated with chemistry students to solve a simple question: how do you make the precursor of a surfboard’s foam core from algae oil? Most surfboards today are made exclusively from petroleum.

Steven Mayfield, a professor of biology and algae geneticist at UCSD, lead researchers when making the board. Mayfield and his team worked to chemically change the oil obtained from laboratory algae and morph them into types of “polyols” to produce the core of the new surfboard.

“In the future, we’re thinking about 100 percent of the surfboard being made that way—the fiberglass will come from renewable resources, the resin on the outside will come from a renewable resource,” Mayfield said in a statement.

The board was built at Arctic Foam’s headquarters in Ensenada, Mexico and brought to Oceanside. It looks just like other surfboards, Mayfield said, but because of the material it is built from, is sustainable.

Mayfield, a surfer himself, said he and others have been faced with the sustainability contradiction when on the water. His connection to the ocean requires a surfboard made of petroleum, an unsustainable board.

“This shows that we can still enjoy the ocean, but do so in an environmentally sustainable way,” Mayfield said.

Mayfield said they hoped Faulconer would display the board so others would see how the city could be a hub for innovation and collaboration on many levels. 

“It perfectly fits with the community and our connection with the ocean and surfing," Mayfield said. "And it also shows the biotechnology and innovation that we can bring to bear here in San Diego in a very collaborative way.”

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