Marine

Eco-friendly ship paint lets barnacles get sponged away

Eco-friendly ship paint lets b...
Biofouling organisms are easily brushed off of the new paint
Biofouling organisms are easily brushed off of the new paint
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Dr. Martina Baum applies a test patch of the paint to the ship "African Forest"
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Dr. Martina Baum applies a test patch of the paint to the ship "African Forest"
Biofouling organisms are easily brushed off of the new paint
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Biofouling organisms are easily brushed off of the new paint

Known as biofouling, the accumulation of barnacles and other marine organisms on ships' hulls greatly decreases their hydrodynamic efficiency. This means that their engines have to work harder to move them through the water, burning more fuel and creating more CO2 emissions. Thanks to a new paint, however, removing those greeblies may soon be as simple as periodically wiping the ship's hull with a sponge.

While there are already other anti-biofouling paints on the market, many of these work by gradually secreting toxic substances that kill barnacles, mussels and other freeloaders. Unfortunately, these substances also enter the ocean, damaging the environment.

Developed by a research team at Germany's Kiel University, along with colleagues at spin-off company Phi-Stone, the new paint doesn't work that way.

Dr. Martina Baum applies a test patch of the paint to the ship "African Forest"
Dr. Martina Baum applies a test patch of the paint to the ship "African Forest"

It's made from a polymer composite based on polythiourethane (PTU) and specially-formed ceramic particles, which has an exceptionally smooth surface. Marine organisms can't form a permanent foothold on it, and those that temporarily do latch on are easily dislodged without damaging the paint itself.

In a field test of the technology, the paint was applied to the hull of a ship that regularly travels between Belgium and Gabon in central Africa. Even after two years, there was still a marked reduction in biofouling. The organisms that were present were quickly cleaned off using a plain sponge.

Phi-Stone is now working on a spraying technique for applying the paint over large areas.

Source: Kiel University

6 comments
Gregg Velosi
Brilliant! This is exactly the kind of progress we need to be making. Keep it up.
Craig Jennings
For something developed at a university it's remarkably short on details of the testing, but it sounds nice and would be great to reduces the 10k's tonnes of toxic paint used every year :)
DFrancis
NOx and sooty particulates are what need to be reduced, not CO2. And not forgetting leakage of petroleum into the water, because that's one of the causes of coral decline. Carbon dioxide is beneficial for marine phytoplankton, which in turn benefits marine organisms further up the food chain.
Stomps
The next invention will be the robotic sponge.
ljaques
Please define "a marked reduction". P.S: Keelhauling will never be the same.
fb36
How about just using Teflon?