Environmentally-friendly removal of biofouling

A German research team has cooperated to develop an environmentally-friendly coating. This coating makes it harder for marine organisms to grow on the hulls and makes cleaning the ships easier.

Barnacles and muscles can be brushed off easily from the new coating. The paintwork is not damaged. Source: Dr Martina Baum -

The coating developed in collaboration by scientists from Kiel University and Phi-Stone AG, one of its spin-offs, is both environmentally-friendly and long-lasting.

Brushing off barnacles

The product requires no solvents and does not release any pollutants into the sea – unlike the widespread self-polishing coatings which contain copper. These are gradually removed when the ship moves through the water and continuously release poisonous substances. The smooth surface of the new coating makes it harder for organisms to attach themselves to the hulls and destroy the paintwork. This means that the bio-corrosion-resistant paint lasts longer and barnacles or muscles can be brushed off quickly and easily.

Polymer composite based on PTU

The materials scientists investigated the growth-reduction properties of a polymer composite, which was based on polythiourethane (PTU) and specially-formed ceramic particles. They improve the mechanical properties of the coating and the ability of the paint to adhere to the surface of the ship. Together with Phi-Stone, they further developed the material and the coating process. Every year around the world, 80,000 tonnes of so-called anti-fouling paints are now being used. This costs around 4 billion dollars per annum. Not to mention the cost to the oceans.

Less growth after two years

The research team tested the new product with companies initially on ships in the water tanks at the Geomar Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel. “These tests went very well,” said technical biologist Dr Martina Baum. “We were able to determine significantly less growth after two years on the 'African Forest', which travels from Belgium to Gabon in central Africa. This was then easy to clean off with a plain sponge.” Phi-Stone is currently working on developing a spraying technique, with which the coating can be applied easily and over large areas.

International award for marine technology

Phi-Stone won the Global Marine Technology Entrepreneurship Competition in November, with its environmentally-friendly coating for ships. A total of 120 teams took part in the qualifying rounds in Paris, London, Shanghai or at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. The German qualifying round took place in Kiel at the end of October. In the finals in Qingdao, in China, the coating concept beats competitors from three continents. The first prize is 70,000 US-$ and includes additional funding measures on site.

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