Duke University engineers have developed a hull coating that dislodges bacteria when an electrical current is applied, according to a story in Maritime Reporter magazine.
The material works by physically moving at the microscopic level, knocking the bacteria away. This avoids the use of bacteria-killing paints, which can contain heavy metals or other toxic chemicals that might accumulate in the environment and unintentionally harm fish or other marine organisms.
“We have developed a material that wrinkles, or changes its surface, in response to a stimulus, such as stretching or pressure or electricity,” said Duke engineer Xuanhe Zhao, assistant professor in Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering. “This deformation can effectively detach biofilms and other organisms that have accumulated on the surface.”
The researchers tested their approach in the laboratory with simulated seawater, as well as on barnacles. These experiments were conducted in collaboration with Daniel Rittschof the Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, N.C.
The project is funded by the U.S. Office of Naval Research and the MRSEC.