A new type of barnacle-repellant paint — based around compounds derived from the Maytenus tree — has been devised by an international group of researchers.
While that, at first, may not sound like something that is that important, the reality is that the drag created by barnacles (or many other types of hitch hikers) on ship hulls contributes relatively significantly to the operating costs of shipping companies. Eliminating this issue could help to improve shipping speeds (to a degree) as well as — as previously stated — reducing costs.
The press release explains the issue and the new work:
By increasing water resistance, they can bump a ship’s fuel use by as much as 40%, which costs money, adds to pollution and depletes resources. These marine hitchhikers also can cause environmental problems by invading new parts of the globe and competing with native animals and plants. To keep hulls clean, some shipping companies have turned to special coatings. The problem is these coatings can permanently harm sea life. So the team sought an ocean-friendlier option from a sustainable source.
They turned to Maytenus trees, which are found worldwide. The plants’ root bark contains compounds that are similar to defensive agents produced by bottom-dwelling ocean creatures. In the lab, the scientists found that the compounds repel barnacles, but generally don’t cause long-term damage. They also added the compounds to paint, which they applied to tiles and field-tested in the sea. The new coatings effectively stopped algae, tube worms and other creatures from latching on.
Interesting work. Of course there are certainly other ways to improve the energy efficiency of cargo ships, such as through the use of simple, good energy-efficient design, or through the use of rather more exotic seeming solutions, such as the those utilized by the Vindskip.
Or you could also always largely circumvent the issue of shipping fuel costs/pollution simply by tapping the power of the wind, or of the sun. While it’s easy to scoff at the notion of returning to wind-driven cargo shipping, the reality is that it is extremely energy efficient, and not even necessarily slower.
The new research was detailed in a paper just published in the ACS journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research.
Image Credit: Cargo Ships via Flickr CC
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