Lobster Shells Make Great

Lobster Shells Make Great

Michele Berger
Published: 05/04/2011

Researcher Alex Caddell with one of the lobster-shell balls. Photo courtesy of University of Maine.

If Cosmo Kramer had been swinging his golf clubs today (instead of in a 1994 Seinfeld episode) his water-bound balls could’ve biodegraded. No more balls irretrievable from the ocean floor—or in the case of the “Marine Biologist” episode, stuck in the blowhole of a whale. What Kramer needed was the University of Maine’s new innovation: golf balls made from lobster shells.

UMaine researchers came up with the crushed lobster-shell balls bound and coated with biodegradable materials in collaboration with The Lobster Institute. “We’re using a byproduct of the lobster canning industry that is currently miserably underutilized. It ends up in a landfill,” says David Neivandt, UMaine biological and chemical engineering professor. “We’re employing it in a value-added consumer product which hopefully has some cachet in the market.”

A lobster-shell golf ball. Photo courtesy of University of Maine.

Though originally intended for use on cruise ships, these golf balls can work for any golfer trying to improve his swing—mainly because once they hit the market, they’ll likely cost less than a buck each. (For some perspective, a Titelist ball could run you more than $3 per.) And thanks to their design, these golf balls should take only a few weeks to sink and break down, depending on the depth and temperature of the water, according to an article that ran in the Boston Globe.

Plus, the balls fly well, confirms Alex Caddell, a UMaine undergrad who worked on the research and who happens to be a golfer himself. “The flight properties are amazing,” he says. “It doesn’t fly quite as far as a regular golf ball, but we’re actually getting a similar distance to other biodegradable golf balls.” And what about their color? They look like regular white golf balls, says Kristen Andresen of UMaine’s department of university relations. But, she adds, researchers can work in more of the shell to turn the balls an aesthetically pleasing pink.