Novel automated underwater cleaning system

Researchers present systematic cleaning and evaluation of exposed fouling control coating systems using a novel laboratory scale automated underwater cleaning system.

Biofouling increases roughness and drag force on surfaces, so that higher power requirement is needed at a given speed. In other words, fuel consumption and emission of greenhouse gases will increase because of accumulated fouling on ships' hull surface. Image source: Josep Monter - Pixabay (symbol image).

Underwater cleaning is becoming increasingly important in biofouling prevention besides the development of novel fouling control coatings. This study introduces a laboratory scale self-designed automated underwater cleaning system (AUCS) with a digital force sensor which is able to achieve force monitoring during the cleaning process. The effects of brush type and cleaning frequency were investigated in details according to fouling resistance and cleaning efficiency on an epoxy coating (EP), a soluble copper-based antifouling coating (Cu-AF) and a silicone-based fouling release coating (Si-FR) by the AUCS.

Fouling resistance

Test results showed that EP panels cleaned by rubber brush performed better fouling resistance property and cleaning efficiency compared with those cleaned by nylon brush. Additionally, better fouling resistance property and cleaning efficiency of EP panels were obtained with biweekly cleaning. Cu-AF panels cleaned by nylon brush performed better fouling resistance property and cleaning efficiency compared with those cleaned by sponge brush over the cleaning period. Cu-AF panels with biweekly cleaning exhibited higher fouling resistance compared with monthly cleaning while the cleaning efficiency was more depended on brush types. Si-FR panels were outperformed compared with Cu-AF and EP during the underwater cleaning period. However, for the first 3 cleaning months, Si-FR panels with underwater cleaning showed poorer fouling resistance compared with panels without cleaning. Additionally, Si-FR panels cleaned by sponge brush gave lower cleaning efficiency with extension of cleaning period and cleaning interval compared with Si-FR panels cleaned by nylon brush.

The study has been published in Progress in Organic Coatings, Volume 182, September 2023.

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