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Checkerspot unveils skis made from new algae-based bioplastics

Credit – Marcus Baranow

“This is an example of how we are innovating performance materials designed for specific applications with use cases across a range of industries.”

US materials innovation company Checkerspot has launched skis called Vital 100, which are made from its newest material – Algal Cast. The company unveiled its algae-based bioplastic product via its outdoor consumer brand WNDR Alpine.

The new bio-based performance material replaces petroleum-derived acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) with enhanced physical properties, and near zero waste, Checkerspot said in a statement.

Vital 100 is a precision backcountry ski for technical, high alpine skiing. The new Algal Cast polyurethane is integrated into the Vital 100’s sidewalls. Applying this material creates a direct, epoxy-free bond to the ski’s core.

Vital 100 is Checkerspot’s (@Checkerspot_) second product launch in the space of one year. Vital 100 complements its first algae-based ski called Intention 100. These skis featured the company’s material called Algal Core – a high-density composite derived from their microalgae polyol. The composite was laminated left and right of a centre aspen core with Paulownia wood out over the edge.

Now, with Checkerspot’s new product launch, the core has changed. The domestically-sourced aspen now runs down the centre and out over the edge. This improves the strength over the edge of the ski and also allows the brand to trace the origin of its wood — something that isn’t possible with Paulownia.

In addition, Checkerspot’s Algal Hard Foam polyurethane materials aim to optimise ski performance by increasing torsional stiffness at a lower weight, among other things.

“As a ski designer, working closely with our molecular biologists and material scientists on the Vital 100 allowed us to eliminate petroleum-based ABS plastic sidewalls from the ski’s construction, and has allowed us to rethink the ski manufacturing process as a whole, resulting in significant waste reduction,” said Matt Sterbenz, GM of Checkerspot Wintersports and founder of WNDR Alpine.

“WNDR Alpine is an extension of Checkerspot’s lab. Innovating and creating new materials directly with product performance and the needs of the end-user top of mind provides us clear direction. We start with the question ‘how can we make products better?’” said Dr. Scott Franklin, CSO and co-founder of Checkerspot.

He added: “The development of our tunable Algal Cast polyurethane system demonstrates the integration of materials scientists, product design, and manufacturing to deliver products that meet or exceed the needs of the end user. In this case, skiers rely on this equipment in often challenging backcountry conditions. Bottom line, the materials have to perform.”

“Historically, most product designers have been limited by the materials available to them from commodity-based suppliers. The Vital 100 is animating what is possible with biomanufactured materials enabled by biology and developed with end-use applications in mind,” said Charles Dimmler (@cdimmler), CEO and co-founder of Checkerspot.

He added: “This is an example of how we are innovating performance materials designed for specific applications with use cases across a range of industries.”


If you enjoyed this bioeconomy story, you may also be interested in the ones below.

Read: Checkerspot links up with Gore to produce green outdoor apparel.

Read: Performance is the key as Checkerspot prepares to launch a product for the Winter sports market.

Read: Checkerspot secures $13m funding to grow high-performance materials offering.

Read: Burger King launches ‘Impossible Whopper’ burger made with GM yeast.

Read: $5.8 billion invested by VCs in bio-based chemicals; focus shifts to disruptive synthetic biology.

Read: Synthetic spider silk pioneers receive $50m funding boost. 

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