Flinders University researchers Professor Mats Andersson and Associate Professor Sophie Leterme are developing a new antifouling marine coating. The $350,000 project will conduct a series of sea trials in the next 12 months and is being led by Flinders University in South Australia in collaboration with the University of South Australia, shipbuilder ASC and the Australian Department of Defense.
Fungicide paints that release copper into the water to kill off organic growth such as algae and barnacles from ship surfaces are the most commonly used antifouling coatings. However, this has led to environmental concerns about the enrichment of copper in the water in harbors around the world.
Alternative silicon-based coatings have proven to be effective at removing algae and other organisms when boats reach a certain speed but are expensive and ineffective at preventing build-up on vessels docked in port.
Flinders University researchers have spent four years developing a chemically engineered carbon-based coating that can draw copper ions from sea water and then release them using electrical pulses.
The latest project, which is being partially funded by a $150,000 grant through the South Australian Government’s Defense Innovation Partnership, will test the new coating in the marine environment. A second coating that uses only electrical pulses to remove fouling will also be tested.
Hull fouling can cause loss of speed and maneuverability, increase fuel use, hull damage and poses a biosecurity threat of disease spread.
New Zealand was the first country to introduce tough national biofouling regulations in 2018 to keep out foreign aquatic diseases and invasive marine organisms. Other countries are set to follow New Zealand’s lead. At the same time, the use of traditional copper-based antifouling paints is under greater scrutiny than ever because of pollution concerns and the potential impact it can have on native marine organisms.