Research Team Announces Superhydrophobic Coating


A team of researchers from several universities have reportedly come together to develop a superhydrophobic surface that can last for months underwater, inspired by a type of spider with water-repellent hairs.  

According to the release from Harvard University, the new development could allow underwater superhydrophobic surfaces to prevent corrosion, bacterial growth, the adhesion of marine organisms, chemical fouling and other negative effects. 

About the Development

The release explains that researchers based the new technology off the Argyroneta aquatica spider, which has millions of rough, water-repellent hairs that can trap air around its body and create an oxygen reservoir that blocks water from the spider’s lungs.

The thin layer of air is reportedly called a plastron, which for years scientists have tried to harness for the protective effects. The issue, the release states, is that plastrons are highly unstable under water, only able to keep surfaces dry for a few hours.

Now, however, the team has reportedly found a superhydrophobic surface that contains a stable plastron. With it, the team states that it hopes to create long-lasting underwater superhydrophobic surfaces that can “repel blood and prevent the adhesion of bacterial and marine organisms” like barnacles and mussels.

“Research in bioinspired materials is an extremely exciting area that continues to bring into the realm of man-made materials elegant solutions evolved in nature, which allow us to introduce new materials with properties never seen before,” said Joanna Aizenberg, Amy Smith Berylson Professor of Materials Science and Professor of Chemistry & Chemical Biology at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and co-author of the paper.

“This research exemplifies how uncovering these principles can lead to developing surfaces that maintain superhydrophobicity under water.”

Additionally, the release states that the new discovery could open a range of applications in biomedicine and industry.

The team was reportedly led by the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard, the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg in Germany, and Aalto University in Finland.

Research for the development was published in the journal Nature Materials.

Similar News

In November of 2022, antifouling biotechnology developers I-Tech AB and RISE Research Institutes of Sweden announced that they had developed a new method for introducing its barnacle repelling active agent into marine antifouling coatings. 

Selektope, or medetomidine, is an active agent developed, patented and registered by I-Tech for use in antifouling coatings, reducing hard fouling on vessels and other underwater structures. The latest findings would reportedly expand the ways paint manufactures can work with the technology and pave the way for enhanced future hard biofouling prevention.

Selektope was delivered to the surface of self-polishing copolymer (SPC) antifouling coatings due to being held in the coating matrix via electrostatic interactions with metal pigments, allowing the technology to be evenly dispersed throughout the coating matrix and released at a sustained rate as the paint erodes or polishes.

However, the success of biocidal coatings was reportedly dependent on the sustained control of biocide release at the coating surface across the entire intended lifespan of a coating system. For large merchant ships, this period could be up to sixty months.

Following this experiment, I-Tech and RISE reported that the control panel displayed heavy barnacle fouling whereas the panels coated with paints containing Selektope, both introduced via the traditional method and via the new method of attachment to a co-polymer chain, were barnacle-free.

The researchers said these results provided proof of concept that attaching Selektope to a co-polymer for use in SPC antifouling coatings is possible.

The research findings were presented at the International Antifouling Conference in 2022 in Gothenburg, Sweden. The companies report that Selektope in SPC coatings has been used on over 1,000 vessels to-date.

In September, Selektope reportedly protected the hull and other areas of the world’s largest hospital ship in a recent successful test. 

According to the release from I-Tech, the test was the company’s toughest challenge and protected the ship while it was docked for extensive periods of time in warm waters.

The release stated that though Global Mercy spent over 22 months stationary, at risk from barnacle fouling, since delivery to Mercy Ships in August 2021, the vessel’s hull and "niche areas" have remained completely free of barnacle fouling.

Uncoated surfaces of the vessel, the azimuth propellers and bow thrusters, were reportedly found to be covered with biofouling, both soft and hard fouling species. Additionally, it was noted that barnacle fouling was present in areas where the coating surface was damaged, including the bulbous bow and where anchor damage had occurred.

The findings reportedly confirmed the elevated hard fouling pressures in waters that Global Mercy regularly encountered while delivering medical help from the Port of Dakar, Senegal, or while docked for maintenance at the Granadilla de Abona Port in Tenerife, Spain.

I-Tech’s release also stated that it is an active agent ingredient added to marine coatings in nano-molar concentrations—about 0.1% per wet weight of paint—that is characterized by its first-of-its-kind bio-repellent mode of action, which can help keep a ship’s hull free from barnacles with a non-fatal effect on the target organism.


Tagged categories: Antifoulants; Asia Pacific; Coating Materials; Coatings; Coatings Technology; Colleges and Universities; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Environmental Control; Environmental Controls; Foul release; Latin America; Marine; Marine Coatings; North America; Program/Project Management; Quality Control; Research and development; Surface preparation; Z-Continents

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