Antifouling Tech Inspired by Carnivorous Plants


A team of chemistry researchers based out of the University of Sydney Nano Institute, led by associate professor Chiara Neto, has devised antifouling surface coatings that do not contain any toxic components, using the surface structure of a carnivorous plant as inspiration.

The need for alternative antifoulants has been on the rise since the ban of tributyltin, a toxic antifouling agent that was commonly used in the past.

Antifouling Agent

The carnivorous Nepenthes pitcher plant, the research team’s inspiration, traps a layer of water on the tiny structures around the rim of its opening, noted The University of Sydney. This creates a slippery layer that causes insects to aquaplane, at which point they slip into the “pitcher” and are digested.

By stopping the initial adhesion of the bacteria, the coating in turn inhibits the formation of a biofilm and the further growth of marine fouling organisms.

Successful Tests

Lab tests demonstrated that these surfaces resisted much of the fouling caused by a common strain of marine bacteria. In comparison, layers of Teflon that went untreated by the coating were completely fouled. To ensure the coating’s ability to hold up under a variety of conditions, the research team also tested the coating in contact with the surface of the ocean.

For this, test surfaces were attached to swimming nets at Watsons Bay baths in Sydney Harbor for seven weeks. Even in this environment, the coating still resisted fouling.

The coatings are also transparent and moldable, which can be useful for underwater cameras and sensors, noted the University of Sydney.

The team’s research was published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.


Tagged categories: Antifoulants; Asia Pacific; Coating Materials; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Latin America; Marine Coatings; North America; Quality control; Research and development; Z-Continents

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