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Hey, bacteria, get off of my boat!
Date:10/31/2011

scale, shaking off slimy colonies of marine bacteria in a manner similar to how a horse might twitch its skin to shoo away flies. The researchers also consider how a stimulus might alter the chemical properties of a surface in a way that could decrease a marine organism's ability to stick.

At the AVS Symposium, held Oct. 30 Nov. 4 in Nashville, Tenn., Lopez will present results from experiments on two different types of stimuli-responsive surfaces: one that changes its texture in response to temperature and the other in response to an applied voltage. The voltage-responsive surfaces are being developed in collaboration with the laboratory of Xuanhe Zhao, also a Duke researcher, who found that insulating cables can fail if they deform under voltages. "Surprisingly, the same failure mechanism can be made useful in deforming surfaces of coatings and detaching biofouling," Zhao said.

"The idea of an active surface is inspired by nature," adds Lopez, who remembers being intrigued by the question of how a sea anemone's waving tentacles are able to clean themselves. Other biological surfaces, such as shark skin, have already been copied by engineers seeking to learn from nature's own successful anti-fouling systems.

The model surfaces that Lopez and his team study are not yet in forms suitable for commercial applications, but they help the scientists understand the mechanisms behind effective texture or chemical changes. Understanding these mechanisms will also help the team develop materials and methods for controlling biofouling in a wide range of additional contexts, including on medical implants and industrial surfaces. As a next step, the team will test how the surfaces are able to shake off other forms of marine life. Eventually the team hopes to submerge coated test panels in coastal waters and wait for the marine life to come, but hopefully not get too cozy.


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Contact: Catherine Meyers
cmeyers@aip.org
301-209-3088
American Institute of Physics
Source:Eurekalert

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