Inspired by nematode plant Nepenthes, scientists developed anti-biofouling coating technology
HC Coatings Network News: If the hull is covered by barnacles and other marine organisms outside, then these ships must intensify their efforts to burn more fuel and create more carbon dioxide emissions to move in the water. Although bio-fouling paints can kill these organisms, they can also harm other marine organisms. Therefore, scientists from the Nano Research Institute at the University of Sydney, Australia, have created a plant-inspired coating that prevents organisms from finding a foothold.
The insectivorous plant Nepenthes traps insects through a series of tiny structures around its open edges. These structures trap a layer of water on the surface of the plant, making the edges slippery. As a result, insects that have ventured into cages fall down, where they are drowned by the liquid that is secreted.
Under the direction of associate professor Chiara Neto, researchers replicated these structures by adding so-called "nanofolds" on the surface of transparent polymers. When the non-toxic silicone oil is added, even if it is submerged underwater, the "nano-pleated material" can keep a layer of transparent polymer in place.
In laboratory tests, the coated polytetrafluoroethylene sample was almost resistant to all fouling of marine bacteria from common species. In contrast, untreated control samples were quickly "invaded" by bacteria.
The technology was also tested on a shark netted sample in Sydney Harbour for a period of seven weeks. Even in the harsher marine environment, "nano-folds" are still free from biofouling.
Papers on this study were recently published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.