Scientists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in Germany have discovered that tiny vanadium pentoxide nanoparticles can inhibit the growth of barnacles, bacteria, and algae on surfaces in contact with water, such as ship hulls, sea buoys, or offshore platforms. Their experiments showed that steel plates to which a coating containing dispersed vanadium pentoxide particles had been applied could be exposed to seawater for weeks without the formation of deposits of barnacles, bacteria, and algae. In comparison, plates that were coated only with the ship's normal paint exhibited massive fouling after exposure to seawater for the same period of time. The discovery could lead to the development of new protective, antifouling coatings and paints that are less damaging to the environment than the ship coatings currently used.
Marine fouling is a problem that costs the shipping industry more than 200 billion dollars per year. The accumulation of organisms such as algae, mussels, and barnacles increases the objects' water resistance and, in consequence, fuel consumption. This means additional costs for shipping companies and, even worse, increased environmental damage due to extra CO2 emissions. Within only a few months, an underwater boat hull can be completely covered and overgrown with organisms. According to Lloyds, this means an increase in fuel consumption of up to 28 percent and about 250 million tons of additional CO2 emissions per year. While it is possible to counteract this effect to some extent by means of the use of antifouling paints, conventional biocides are less effective and can have adverse environmental consequences. In addition, microorganisms can develop resistance to them.
It was one of nature's own defense mechanisms that provided the inspiration for the approach now taken by the team of scientists working under Professor Dr. Wolfgang Tremel of the Institute of Inorganic Chemistry and Analytical C
|Contact: Dr. Wolfgang Tremel|
Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz