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Could Nanotechnology offer solution for vessel corrosion and bio-fouling?

Nanotechnology will play a crucial role in the future management of vessel corrosion and biofouling; according to the EU funded maritime project KETmaritime.

The research into the potential of 'Nanotechnology Marine Applications' is part of the Euro 1M, two-year KETmaritime project of which Marine South East is a partner. This latest study was led by Spanish technology centre IDONIAL in collaboration with INL and Marine South East.

According to the report, humidity and salinity levels at sea cause around 30% of all vessel failures, repair needs and equipment malfunctions. Whilst traditional solutions including protective coatings and paints partially offset the degradation process, new nanotechnology is proving considerably more efficient.

Corrosion and biofouling are known to be major challenges for vessel operators. In the case of corrosion, the deterioration process is caused by an electrochemical attack. This leads to a progressive process of oxidation putting the integrity of vessel material in danger. This comes at a considerable cost to marine operators in terms of maintenance and repair activities.

Biofouling, meanwhile, involves a build-up of organic mass which can modify the shape and hydrodynamic behaviour of hull material. This can lead to increased water resistance and fuel consumption. Both phenomena continue to pose challenges because the current manufacturing and treatment process of materials present defects. Although small, these defects favour both the oxidation processes and the accumulation of biomass.

New solutions are being explored through the development of 'nanostructed' coatings using 'nanoparticulate' substances. The report found that these coatings are capable of providing superior protection because they involve substances which form and interact on previously unreachable scales, in which the corrosion and biofouling processes begin.

As part of the KETmaritime project, INL is currently working with Portuguese firm UNDERSEE to implement state of the art technologies to increase the lifetime of sensors in respect to biofouling. Nanotechnology further offers environmental benefits by maximising the anti-adherent or repulsive capabilities of a surface and eliminating the need for biocides.

The report notes that numerous companies are already developing specialised nanotech products to tackle corrosion and biofouling. New products include nanoadditives such as nano-ZnO, nanoalumina, nanosilica.

David Santos, from project partner IDONIAL, said there are a raft of other potential uses for ‘nanotechnology’ across marine related operations.

"There remains huge interest in the potential of nanotechnology due to its innovative approach to products and processes from the smallest achievable physical scale," he said. "At the molecular or atomic scale, the behaviour of matter can be very different from what is observed at a macro scale. There are many areas across the marine sector which will significantly benefit from new advances in nanotechnology. The latest report from KETmaritime expands in detail on the uses of this technology within shipbuilding, oil & gas operations, fuel additives, alternative powering systems, aquaculture and fisheries.

The KETmaritime project is backed by the European Regional Development Fund and is being delivered by a consortium of seven partners in an effort to identify 'Key Enabling Technologies' to support the future needs and demands of the Atlantic maritime industry.

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Posted 2019-11-12 13:24:36

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