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Toxic Algae Solution? This Startup is Turning Algal Blooms Into Bioplastics

Oct 15, 2016 01:51 PM EDT
Jar of Toxic Algae
As the toxic algal bloom in Florida shows no signs of improvement, people are continuously driven away by the stench from Florida's beaches.
(Photo : Flickr/Creative Commons/NOAA)

From Florida to Tasmania, toxic algal blooms have caused environmental and economic problems this year. Now, start-up company Bloom has devised a way to transform these deadly algae to a flexible foam, a plastic alternative that could prove useful in different applications.

According to a report from Treehugger, Bloom uses a mobile unit that harvests algae bloom from infected areas through a vacuum. Excess nutrients are then separated from the algae resulting to clean, algae-free water, which is returned to rivers and lakes that formerly have high algae content Meanwhile, the harvested algae are dried and turned into pellets called Solaplast Resign Grades -- a flexible algae-based foam.

Algix, Bloom's parent company, notes that the technology used in harvesting algae involves aquaculture and water remediation. The mobile algae harvester features a central drying facility called ALGENT, which has a storage capacity for algae slurry, a secondary mechanical dewatering facility and a tertiary drying infrastructure which has the ability to dry the algae to under 10 percent of moisture level.

"The plant protein found in algae, like other plant proteins, exhibits interesting properties when thermomechanical forces are applied to it. By definition, protein is comprised of polymer chains of amino acids. Thus, by applying these thermomechanical forces, the protein chains are denatured, deformed and stretched out in the orientation of the mechanical forces," Bloom said.

"In an extrusion process, the deformation and stretching allows [sic] the algae cells to deform and stretch and become elongated and entangled with a given thermoplastic base resin to form a masterbatch resin. Once the masterbatch resin is formed, then conventional foaming processing can be successfully utilized for manufacturing high performance flexible foams with high algae content," the company added.

Read: How Florida's Toxic Algae is Choking the Economy And The Environment

The said biofoam created from toxic algae presents various applications. It could be used for sheet extrusion, blown film, injection molding and other thermoforming techniques in sporting goods and footwear.

The first product that will be made using this revolutionary algae bioplastic is a surfboard traction pad. The said product is a collab with professional surfer Kelly Slater and will be available next month.

 “I’m excited to bring a product to market that not only feels better than the pads I’ve used in the past, but actually helps improve the quality of our water ways," Slater said.

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