| Connect Follow us on Twitter Like us on Facebook
About | Subscribe | Advertise


Download our free BWater Works Coating Systems eResource Book

Paint and Coatings Industry News

Main News Page

Slime Fighter: Coating Evicts Biofilms

Friday, August 10, 2012

More items for Coating Materials

Comment | More

Biofilms—the slimy scourge of steel ship hulls and copper pipes—may permanently lose their grip on such structures with the aid of a new coating developed by Harvard scientists.

The coating, known by the acronym SLIPS, creates a super-slippery surface that has already shown success in repelling oil and water and in fighting ice and frost buildup.

 Researchers show off their SLIPS technology against a Teflon-coated surface.

 Joanna Aizenberg and Tak-Sing Wong

Researchers show off their SLIPS technology against a Teflon-coated surface. They say SLIPS may permanently prevent the formation of biofilms on surfaces ranging from ship hulls to teeth.

Now, researchers say, the Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surface deprives bacterial communities of the footing they need to attach and grow, offering a permanent avenue for prevention.

Long-Term Approach

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), lead coauthors Joanna Aizenberg, Alexander Epstein and Tak-Sing Wong coated solid surfaces with the immobilized liquid film to “trick” the bacteria into thinking they had nowhere to attach and grow.

“People have tried all sorts of things to deter biofilm build-up—textured surfaces, chemical coatings, and antibiotics, for example,” said Aizenberg, Amy Smith Berylson Professor of Materials Science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and a Core Faculty Member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard.

“In all those cases, the solutions are short-lived at best. The surface treatments wear off, become covered with dirt, or the bacteria even deposit their own coatings on top of the coating intended to prevent them. In the end, bacteria manage to settle and grow on just about any solid surface we can come up with.”

Easy Cleaning

The SLIPS coating, on the other hand, turns “a once-bacteria-friendly surface into a liquid one,” adds Wong, a researcher at SEAS and a Croucher Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the Wyss Institute. “As a result, biofilms cannot cling to the material—and even if they do form, they easily ‘slip’ off under mild flow conditions,”

The team believes this is the first successful test of a nontoxic synthetic surface that can almost completely prevent the formation of biofilms over an extended period of time.

 Letters painted from SLIPS coating show its ability to repel biofilms.
Letters painted from SLIPS coating show its ability to repel biofilms.

SLIPS is also nontoxic, readily scalable, and self-cleaning, needing only gravity or a gentle flow of liquid to stay unsoiled. Everything seems to slip off SLIPS-treated surfaces, the team says.

The coated surfaces can also combat bacterial growth in environments with extreme pH levels, intense ultraviolet light and high salinity, the researchers say. Not surprisingly, the research has been supported in part by the Department of Defense Office of Naval Research.

Fighting Disease

Biofilms don’t impede just ships and pipes. They can stick to medical devices and even teeth, causing infections and cavities.

Aizenberg’s team says SLIPS reduced formation of three of the most notorious, disease-causing biofilms — Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli, and Staphylococcus aureus—by 96-99 percent over a seven-day period.

The coating technology works in both a static environment and under flow, or natural conditions, making it ideally suited for coating implanted medical devices that interact with bodily fluids.

‘Very Cool’ Design Tricks

In future studies, the researchers aim to better understand the mechanisms involved in preventing biofilms. They are particularly interested in whether any bacteria transiently attach to the interface and then slip off, if they just float above the surface, or if any individuals can remain loosely attached.

“Biofilms have been amazing at outsmarting us,” said Aizenberg. “And even when we can attack them, we often make the situation worse with toxins or chemicals.

“With some very cool, nature-inspired design tricks, we are excited about the possibility that biofilms may have finally met their match.”


Tagged categories: Antifoulants; Coatings technology; Marine Coatings; Protective coatings; Research

Comment Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.

Polyval Coatings
Polyflex® Polyurea Linings

Polyflex™ new Polyurea Geotextile Membrane System has been specifically engineered to protect the environment in containment applications.

Wasser High-Tech Coatings Inc.
Wasser Coatings Protect

Wasser Coatings offer a complete range of Moisture Cure Urethane (NEPCOAT approved) systems in addition to Polyurea membranes and linings(NSF).

Carboline Company
Hydrocarbon Fire & Jet Fire Protection

Pyroclad X1 is the latest breakthrough in epoxy based intumescent fireproofing technology

Sherwin-Williams Protective & Marine Coatings

With 4,000 distribution points and 3,700+ years of experience, Sherwin-Williams delivers the products, support and expertise you need, right where you need it.

Built for Tough Jobs

From Epoxies to Urethanes to other high solid coatings, the new Binks Airless 75 delivers a great finish using an ergonomic design. Visit for more information.

Armakleen Company, The
ARMEX when nondestructive cleaning is critical

ARMEX the original baking soda blast abrasive is a brand of Church & Dwight Co., Inc. makers of ARM & HAMMER products since 1896.

Hempel (USA) Inc.

Efficient systems and high quality products to reduce your maintenance costs. Visit Hempel Protective for more information.

Best Floor Coatings with Maximum Durability

Coat CONCRETE or WOOD flooring for wheel and foot traffic, chemical resistance, weather-proofing, indoors and outside. Variety of textures for beauty, resilience and safety.

Thermion Inc
Buy Back Program

We are offering $5,000
credit for your old Model
This drive system is
being discontinued by
the manufacturer.
More information at

Minerals Research & Recovery


“Made in the USA!”

Why recycle waste from other countries? Go FASTER, CLEANER, at 1/3 THE COST with MR&R “All-American” Sharpshot®HP!!


Technology Publishing

The Technology Publishing Network

The Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings (JPCL) PaintSquare
Durability + Design Paint BidTracker

EXPLORE:      JPCL   |   PaintSquare News   |   Interact   |   Buying Guides   |   Webinars   |   Resources   |   Classifieds
REGISTER AND SUBSCRIBE:      Free PaintSquare Registration   |   Subscribe to JPCL   |   Subscribe to PaintSquare News
MORE:      About   |   Privacy policy   |   Terms & conditions   |   Site Map   |   Search   |   Contact Us

© Copyright 2000-2015, Technology Publishing / PaintSquare, All rights reserved
2100 Wharton Street, Suite 310, Pittsburgh PA 15203-1951; Tel 1-412-431-8300; Fax 1-412-431-5428; E-mail