Move over plastic. Meet biodegradable, algae-based polyurethane flip-flops

Putting their customized foams to the test by immersing them in traditional compost and soil, the team discovered the materials degraded after just 16 weeks. During the decomposition period, to account for any toxicity, the scientists, led by UC San Diego’s Skip Pomeroy, measured every molecule shed from the biodegradable materials. They also identified the organisms that degraded the foams.

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Scientific Inquirer

As the world’s most popular shoe, flip-flops account for a troubling percentage of plastic waste that ends up in landfills, on seashores and in our oceans. Scientists at the University of California San Diego have spent years working to resolve this problem, and now they have taken a step farther toward accomplishing this mission.

Sticking with their chemistry, the team of researchers formulated polyurethane foams, made from algae oil, to meet commercial specifications for midsole shoes and the foot-bed of flip-flops. The results of their study are published in Bioresource Technology Reports and describe the team’s successful development of these sustainable, consumer-ready and biodegradable materials.

The research was a collaboration between UC San Diego and startup company Algenesis Materials–a materials science and technology company. The project was co-led by graduate student Natasha Gunawan from the labs of professors Michael Burkart (Division of Physical Sciences) and Stephen Mayfield (Division of Biological…

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