22. Foul No More: New Paints For Ships’ Hulls

Christopher K. Ober, Materials Science and Engineering, and research colleagues developed two types of nontoxic paints that effectively prevent fouling of ships’ hulls whether by bacteria or by barnacles. Because of the turbulence created by the fouling of a ship’s hull, fuel consumption can increase by 30 percent. The new paints—one hydrophilic and one hydrophobic—minimize the adhesion of organisms to the hulls as well as enable hulls to become self-cleaning. To control marine fouling, major users of ships, such as the U.S. Navy, traditionally used paints that contained copper or triorganotin, which are toxic and are becoming increasingly prohibited. These new coatings, both the hydrophilic and the hydrophobic, can be spray-painted or applied as a film. Significant improvements in engineering surfaces have emerged over the past decade with the knowledge that mechanical properties, as well as surface energy and surface chemistry, have to be controlled.

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