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Friday, 22 November 2019

Back to the future - without biocides?

Thursday, 12 February 2015 | Posted by: Michael Richter, European Coatings Journal

At the beginning of the year, I like to tidy up my flat in order to get rid of unwanted and useless things. This time I discovered an article in a pile of newspapers and magazines. This article begins with: "Electrical-Coating – A charge alternating from positive to negative should protect ship hulls from fouling. Via this the acidity of the surrounding water is changing constantly and this repels mussels and algae”. This is what I call an exciting research project.

Wow! This sound very exciting and I am positive, that this technology can help to reduce the amount of biocides and to lower environmental damage. Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials in Halle, Germany have worked on this project together with some companies between 2009 and 2012. From my point of view, the outcome of this project is important, pioneering and fascinating.
Test objects, coated with this new coating system, have been free of any biofilm formation for eleven months. Without using any biocide.

An important step still has to be taken

My questions now are the following. What is the status quo of this project and why is this technology not widely accepted – although the project ended in 2012? This coating system would not only be beneficial for the environment. It would even be easier to find answers for regulatory questions, just because you simply leave out biocides.
So where are the problems? Which particular aspect prevents a widespread application of this technology? There is a decisive step which still has to be taken. Namely the step out of the laboratory into production – the notorious upscaling problem.
Finally, it is a huge difference if a small test object or the large surface area of a ship is coated with a new formulation.

As is so often the case: Lack of money

What still has to be done are more tests in a larger scale under realistic conditions. This means that the hull of a ship should be coated with this new formulation, and the resistance against biofilm growth should be observed. By that, the applicability of the new coating could be examined and optimised. Furthermore the resistance time against biofilm formation could surely be elongated, as the coated objects move through open water. The current which is provoked by a speed of 15 knots is enough to inhibit biofilm formation efficiently.
In total there are obviously enough reasons to busy oneself with this project again and to collect additional results – the reason why this project is put on ice is a lack of money for research. Perhaps a person is needed who focusses old projects as I focus old newspaper articles once a year.

Now it’s your turn!

What is your opinion about "electrical coatings”? Do you see any pros and cons about this technology? Are you experienced in the area of antifouling coatings and can comment on these results?

I am looking forward to your remarks and an interesting discussion!

Kind regards,
Michael Richter

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Author

Michael Richter
European Coatings Journal
Michael Richter
Scientific Consultant
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