Biodegradable, algae-based flip-flops

Researchers at the University of California San Diego developed a polyurethane foam that meets commercial specifications for midsole shoes and the foot-bed of flip-flops, made from algae.

Flip-flops are the world’s most popular shoe. Commonly made from petrochemical polyurethane foam, a material that is hard to recycle, many end up on the landfill or in the oceans, where they add to the plastic soup.

The researchers managed to develop a commercial-quality polyurethane foam made from algal oil, which biodegrades in 16 weeks in a natural environment. Currently, the biocontent is 52 per cent, but the aim is to eventually go to 100 per cent.

The research was conducted in collaboration with materials science start-up Algenesis Materials. Currently, the researchers are trying to make the material economically interesting.

Photos: Stephen Mayfield / UC San Diego