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Nanowrinkled Coatings Reduce Marine Biofouling

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Chemists from the University of Sydney have developed nano­structured surface coatings that have anti-fouling properties without using any toxic components.

The build-up of biological material costs the aquaculture and shipping industries billions of dollars per year in maintenance and extra fuel usage. It is estimated that the increased drag on ship hulls due to biofouling costs the shipping industry in Australia $320 million per year.

Since the toxic anti-fouling agent tributyltin was banned, the need for new non-toxic methods to stop marine biofouling has been pressing.

“We are keen to understand how these surfaces work and also push the boundaries of their application, especially for energy efficiency. Slippery coatings are expected to be drag-reducing, which means that objects such as ships could move through water with much less energy required,” said team leader A/Prof Chiara Neto.

The new coating creates “nanowrinkles” inspired by the carnivorous Nepenthes pitcher plant, which traps a layer of water on the tiny structures around the rim of its opening. This creates a slippery layer that causes insects to aquaplane along the surface before they slip into the pitcher and are digested.

Biofouling can occur on any surface that is wet for a long period of time, such as aquaculture nets, marine sensors and ship hulls. The slippery...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.