The environmental and economic impact of biofouling is significant. We have spoken to Prof. Bert de With, Department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry, Eindhoven University of Technology, about antifouling materials and approaches for the marine environment.
Why are antifouling materials needed in marine environments?
Prof. Bert de With: Marine biofouling generally refers to the undesirable accumulation of biological organisms on surfaces in contact with seawater and represents a major economic concern for marine industries, as it limits the performance of devices, materials and underwater structures and increases the associated costs that arise due to transport delays, hull maintenance and repair, cleaning and desalination units, corrosion and structure break-down. Transport delays, hull repair, cleaning and general maintenance are estimated to cost USD 150 billion per year. Fouled ships are also a source of cross-biocontamination because they can carry marine species into environments in which they are not naturally present. Hence, biofouling has a significant environmental and economic impact.
Which eco-friendly approaches exist to combat biofoulants?
De With: Current research on antifouling coatings can be divided into two main approaches: biocide-release-based and non-biocide-release-based types. The former work on the same principle as the tributyl tin-based systems, but use non-toxic components. The latter are much more preferable because they are greener alternatives and comply with current environmental and health regulations. These employ two main strategies based on different working principles: ‘detachment of settled biofoulants’ by water-flow during ship navigation and ‘prevention of attachment of biofoulants’.
Are there any drawbacks compared to conventional solutions?
De With: Many new coating technologies are still at the stages of ‘proof of principle’ or ‘optimisation for utmost performance’; assessments of their performance under real seawater conditions (chemical, temperature and pressure) and marine usage time-frames will reveal the most promising “green” candidates amongst the exciting range of possibilities for antifouling coatings. New technologies can provide fast and efficient curing procedures for marine coatings, such as photo-curing (UV-LED or even daylight curing), and will support the formulation of low-VOC products while providing the additional benefits of shorter application times, lower maintenance costs and a much lower environmental impact – however, these are currently more expensive.
All about biocides for coatings: Microbicides in Coatings by Frank Sauer provides a comprehensive overview of the working mechanisms and possible applications of microbicides for coatings.
Interview by Kirsten Wrede
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Source: European Coatings