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German Researchers Develop Antifouling Tech

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

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Researchers from Germany’s Kiel University, collaborating with university spinoff Phi-Stone AG, have worked to develop a new antifouling coating for ships that allow for the scrubbing off of barnacles, rather than a more traditional alternatives that releases toxins into the ocean.

Biofouling can increase a ship’s fuel consumption by up to 40 percent, noted Ingo Paulowicz, Board Member of Phi-Stone. This results in a $150 billion cost for the world’s transport industry every year, along with increased environmental pollution. Kiel University’s coating solution requires no solvents and does not release any pollutants.

Antifouling Agent

Some traditional antifouling coatings have already been prohibited, noted the university, due to the pollution they release into the environment. Among these are organotin paints like tributyltin (TBT); copper-based compounds are restricted in a handful of countries, including Sweden, based on their copper-release rate.

Kiel University’s antifouling coating makes it more difficult for organisms such as barnacles to affix themselves to ship hulls.

Kiel University

Researchers from Germany’s Kiel University, collaborating with university spinoff Phi-Stone AG, have worked to develop a new antifouling coating for ships that allow for the scrubbing off of barnacles, rather than a more traditional alternatives that releases toxins into the ocean.

“This means that the bio-corrosion-resistant paint lasts longer and barnacles or mussels can be brushed off quickly and easily,” said Martina Baum, technical biologist from the Functional Nanomaterials working group, which was responsible for the development of the original idea.

Baum, working with then-doctoral researcher Iris Hölken, investigated the growth-reduction properties of a polymer composite. This was based on both polythiourethane (PTU) and specially formed ceramic particles. These improve the coating’s mechanical properties and ability to adhere to the surface of the ship.

Working with companies to test the coating on ships in the water tanks at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, the research team found the tests went well.

“We were able to determine significantly less growth after two years on the 'African Forest', which travels from Belgium to Gabon in central Africa. This was then easy to clean off with a plain sponge,” said Baum.

A spraying technique is currently in development for the coating.

Award-Winning Research

Phi-Stone AG recently won the Global Marine Technology Entrepreneurship Competition with the development of this new coating. The research team beat competitors from three other continents in the finals.

The competition, organized by Shandong University and the city of Qingdao, in China, strove to promote innovative marine technologies, as well as open up Chinese market contacts. The first prize was $70,000 and additional onsite funding.

“It’s great that this idea was developed in exchange with companies and that we were thus able to transfer it from the lab to the ship,” says Professor Rainer Adelung, head of the working group at Kiel University. “It is a great achievement for us as a university, but also for the state, if ideas from Schleswig-Holstein are also convincing at the international level in this way.”

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly asserted that copper antifouling compounds could be banned soon in some jurisdictions; while copper antifoulants are restricted in a handful of countries depending on their copper-release rates, the EU has not banned the compounds and is not currently considering any such regulation.

   

Tagged categories: Coating Materials; Colleges and Universities; Marine Coatings; Research and development

Comment from Neal Blossom, (12/6/2017, 9:57 AM)

This article is incorrect. Copper is not going to be banned in any jurisdiction I know of and it certainly is not going to be prohibited in the EU. Cuprous oxide, copper thiocyanate and copper metal flake have all been approved and this can be found in teh ECHA Article 95 List of Approved suppliers. This is widely known in the coatings industry and should be known by these researchers if they understand the market they are investigating.


Comment from Colin Anderson, (12/6/2017, 12:48 PM)

The picture shows a plethora of barnacles growing on this new coating. It can be inferred that this fouling did not come off during the ship's normal voyaging, and thus it will have negatively impacted the fuel consumption and increased GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions. The aim of any fouling control coating should be "No Growth", not "Less Growth"... especially if it is a potential invasive species that is growing on the hull.


Comment from David Zuskin, (12/6/2017, 3:22 PM)

These coatings could certainly facilitate the transfer of invasive species ;pick them up here, scrub them off there. This is not a novel idea; Ecospeed has supplied a glassflake coating in conjunction with a scamp (scrubbing) service. Disney was using the Ecospeed system on their cruise liners; applied at BAE Norfolk.


Comment from Michael Halliwell, (12/7/2017, 11:23 AM)

Colin, no growth is ideal, but less growth is better than full growth. Plus if your maintenance is reduced to wiping the hull with a sponge scrubber, that's a pretty big savings vs. re-coating with a sacrificial anti-fouling system. I'm not endorsing this new product or saying it is better than anything else out there...but I find it an interesting approach to the issue.


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