Biotechnology students at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) have created the world's first surfboard made from polyols derived from algae.
UCSD's News Center said Stephen Mayfield, a professor of biology and an algae geneticist at the university — as well as an avid surfer for 45 years — launched the project when undergraduate students working in his laboratory joined with students from the labs of Michael Burkhart, a chemistry professor and Robert “Skip” Pomeroy, a chemistry instructor, to change industrial algae into different polyols.
“Most people don't realize that petroleum is algae oil,” Mayfield said. “It's just fossilized, 300 million to 400 million years old and buried deep in the ground.”
Mayfield also worked with Solazyme Inc. of San Francisco, which provided a gallon of algae oil used to make the world's first algae-based surfboard blank.
Arctic Foam of Oceanside, Calif., then shaped the surfboard core and covered it with fiberglass and a renewable resin to produce the final board.
“As surfers, more than any other sport, you are totally connected and immersed in the ocean environment,” Mayfield said. “And yet your connection to that environment is through a piece of plastic made from fossil fuels.
“This shows that we can still enjoy the ocean, but do so in an environmentally sustainable way.”