Algae! is proving to be very useful in re-inventing the conventional foam. Bioplastics firm Algix and clean tech company Effekt are making flexible foam out of algae called – BLOOM foams. According to their site, it is the world’s first plant-based performance-driven foam formulated with algae biomass. These algae based foams are designed to offer a more sustainable alternative to conventional flexible foams, with less environmental impact and it is gradually finding wide and interesting applications like in shoemaking and surfing traction pads, etc.
Bloom Foam and london based shoe company Vivobarefoot are now partnering to produce an amphibious shoe for summer adventures. Now this is not the exotic sneakers on the featured image above, but it is the exquisite Ultra III (see right photo). According to Vivobarefoot, the algae-based foams are sturdy but light-weight, making them a naturally perfect material, for performance footwear. It is approximated that “every pair will help re-circulate 57 gallons of filtered water back into natural habitats, and prevent the equivalent of 40 balloons full of CO2 being released into the Earth’s atmosphere.”
Technology & Features
- The process starts with the harvesting of algae from waste streams using a mobile floating platform. A partner ALGIX, has a custom built mobile algae harvesting platform. These harvesters are reported to use dissolved air flotation in a high efficiency design to separate algae biomass from water. This is done in overly-nutrient-rich waters which often create algal blooms, that in turn cause the death of aquatic life such as fish. Therefore, no additional fertilizers are required to grow the algae. Removing it now actually help the local environment.
- The 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.
On the performance, BLOOM notes that after numerous customer trials with some of the biggest names in footwear, the have found a dramatic increase to the foams elongation, tear strength, and compression deflection (just to name a few), over that of conventional EVA foams. These performance benefits exist solely on account of the algae.
Algae helps keep ecosystems in balance, however, too much can be harmful to freshwater habitats, the people and animals living around it. By sourcing the algae biomass from lakes and ponds with high algal bloom risks, BLOOM Foam intends to mitigate the negative environmental effects caused by the overproduction of algae. Each product made with BLOOM foam comes with an eco-label, which highlights how much filtered water was returned to habitat during algae harvesting, and how much CO2 was permanently sequestered in the making of the product.