Barnacle-Banishing Tape Could Make Ships More Fuel-Efficient

Barnacle-Banishing Tape Could Make Ships More Fuel-Efficient

September 10, 2018

It takes a lot of fuel to move a cargo ship from point A to point B. In fact, shipping is responsible for about 800 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year — comparable to the emissions of Germany. While the industry is tackling the problem on a broad scale, including building ships that are more energy-efficient, scientists are focusing on a smaller culprit: the barnacle.

Barnacles attach to a ship’s hull, adding weight and drag that boost fuel needs. This so-called biofouling can increase a ship’s fuel consumption by 40 percent. The current solution — special paint that kills barnacle larvae — can harm other marine life. So scientists at Kiel University in Germany are experimenting with a special textured tape that physically repels the little buggers.

As the team reported last week in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, a silicone-based material dotted with mushroom-shaped nodules successfully “inhibited the complete wetting of the solidifying glues produced by marine organisms, which resulted in a decreased contact area and, consequently, low adhesion.” They continued: “Minimizing the wetting of marine bioadhesives by optimizing the topography-based wetting resistance of a surface in the marine environment may become an important parameter in developing novel, ecologically friendly solutions against marine biofouling.”


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