Ship hulls and other underwater hulls are treated with paints and varnishes which contain toxic additives to prevent barnacle, algae and mussel growth. Growths on ships can therefore increase fuel consumption by up to 50%. Since the launch of the global ban on tributyltin (TBT) there is a great need for alternative, non-toxic coatings to prevent biofouling. Researchers from the Biomimetics-Innovation-Centre at Bremen University of Applied Sciences have developed a non-toxic alternative coating which uses sharkskin as a model. The microstructure of sharkskin helps to reduce water resistance when afloat as well as it is an efficient means against the colonisation of organisms. Studies show that a silicon-based coating imitating the surface structure of the sharkskin causes a reduction in fouling growing on test plates by 70%. Initial product development a painting product with randomised structure for the recreational craft sector has already been realised. A sprayable version of the product is currently being developed to tailor it to the spray process used in this sector.
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