Slime-Covered Boats Could Keep Marine Pests at Bay

By Eliza Strickland | September 28, 2009 12:30 pm

ship-barnaclesOne day, the most advanced ships may not have steel hulls that slice cleanly through the water, but instead may sort of ooze along, leaving a wake of slime and microbes. Researchers are trying to design a ship that continuously exudes slime to form a coating around its hull that steadily wears away, taking hangers-on like barnacles with it.

Barnacles and the other sea creatures that accumulate on boats’ undersides create drag, and therefore reduce speed and energy-efficiency. The problem is an expensive one, as it requires vessels to be brought into dry dock every couple of years to remove plants and animals from the hull. It has been made worse by the banning last year of antifouling paints based on tributyltin, which is toxic to marine life [New Scientist].

In the study, published in the journal Smart Materials and Structures, lead researcher Rahul Ganguli describes the scheme. His idea is to cover the outer layer of a ship in a metal mesh, beneath which is a regular pattern of holes that exude a sticky, biosafe chemical that becomes more viscous on contact with seawater. As the secretion oozes out of the pores it fills the gaps in the mesh and pools on top to form a viscous skin coating the entire hull. This skin steadily wears away, taking with it any life that has gained a foothold, and is replaced by new slime from below [New Scientist].

When Ganguli tested the system in tanks of water in the lab, he found that the viscous coating greatly reduced the amount of bacterial colonies growing on the ship; these colonies form the base on which barnacles, sea weeds, and tube worms take hold and grow. Testing of the materials will continue, underwritten by the U.S. Department of Defense.

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Image: iStockphoto

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Technology
  • Brian

    Hard to imagine a shipyard trumpeting the new SlugShip design!

  • Keith Thacker

    Good News,

    What if there was a new product available that would eliminate or greatly reduce the chance of barnacles attaching to the hull of any vessel or object submerged in water, fresh or salt.

    Would it be ok if you only had to treat the vessel or object once a year and clean up could be cut in 1/2.

    What if there was a product that was environmentally friendly that when applied properly reduced the friction and drag of the vessel increasing the efficiency and overall performance of the watercraft.

    Great news this product is now available throughout the USA & uses nanotechnology the seal the hull or any surface of the watercraft and make it so slick that virtually nothing can stick or adhere to it.

    Take time today to learn how you can have more time on the water and less time doing the cleanup when you pull your craft out of the water.

    There are many uses other uses for this product as well.

    Contact Keith @ 1stCall@Live.com for more information. Distributorships are available for the US thru December 2009 for Boat Dealers and special service contractors.

    Great for all boats, yachts, seadoos ,fishing boats, tankers, vessels, sail boats, and even the sails. WOW this nanotech marineseal really works on any surface on your vessel except the floor.

    Don’t wait contact us today and see how we can help you preserve your investment.

    Keith Thacker
    1stCall@Live.com

  • Goby Starling

    Wow, those jumping carp seemed just the thing for those catfish farmers trying to reduce pond algae.

    How about breeding those industrious African Bees into our domestic Bee colonies?

    That’s ok, nano slime must be the ticket, it was made by scientists…

  • Em

    I don’t know, maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way. But wouldn’t having the hull coated with slime also create a lot of drag? I would think that even if it wears away constantly, that it wouldn’t wear away equally in every spot and create a unever surface. But maybe that would still be consideraby less drag than the plant and animal life do.

    I do wonder what impact it may have on the enviroment though. It’s a lot easier to pay for the current fees than to restore damage done to our evironment. I just hope they keep in mind any possible repercussions.

  • Fat kid

    Everything in nature is food for something, trust me I know. Do you really think that styrofoam cup you toss out will just sit in a dump for half a million years? Something is going to eventually find it delicious.

    Weve turned our ocean into a sewer, our planet into an open landfill, yet we just keep piling it on.

    Why not work on an electrostatic charge to coat a boat instead? The cohesive properties of water will make their mollecules have an easier time sticking to each other than to a repellantly charged hull. The charge would also make a fuzzy, invisible barrier to barnacles and other sticky things. You could power the barrier from the

  • Fat kid

    propeller or its fly wheel. Sorry, I dropped my sandwich while I was driving.

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