TufFoam, as Whinnery's invention has been dubbed, is made without the carcinogenic chemical toluene di-isocyonate, a danger to workers and the local environment, and without CFCs, powerful agents in global warming and ozone-layer destruction. Most surfboard foam is still made with both, and the heavy EPA restrictions on TDI use were one of the reasons that industry giant Clark Foam gave for closing its doors.
A small San Diego foam company, Petritech, licensed TufFoam from the weapons lab in April and believes that it will produce better surfboards. "The primary failure mechanism for boards is that they snap, and TufFoam is significantly stronger than the TDI foams we've tested it against," says Petritech CEO Dave Sheehan. "Plus, we think surfers will appreciate the cleaner chemistry."
So is Whinnery planning to field-test his invention? "My wife is a more serious surfer than I am," he says. "She called to reserve the first TufFoam board a long time ago."
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.