Advanced Marine Coatings

Sponsor: Office of Naval Research

Background. Marine biological fouling is defined as the undesirable accumulation of microorganisms, plants and animals on artificial surfaces immersed in sea water. This biological settlement on ship hulls produces high frictional resistance and increased weight which ultimately results in a major increase in fuel consumption. In addition to an increase in fuel consumption, biofouling increases the frequency of dry-docking, initiates corrosion and may result in the introduction of invasive species to a marine environment.

Marine fouling of ship hulls has historically been controlled by incorporating toxic compounds, such as organotin compounds or copper oxide, into an organic surface coating and designing the coating to allow for a gradual release of the toxic compounds into the aquatic environment. While this approach has been very effective at controlling marine fouling, it has created significant environmental concern. In fact, the International Maritime Organization banned all new uses of organotin-containing, antifouling coatings and the use of copper oxide may be strongly regulated in the future. As a result, both the global shipping industry and defense organizations around the world are in need of more environmentally-friendly hull coatings for controlling marine fouling.

Program Objectives. The primary objectives of the program were to:

  1. Construct a world-class facility for applying combinatorial/high-throughput methods to polymer and surface coating research and development.
  2. Use the newly acquired equipment and techniques to develop novel, environmentally-friendly ship hull coatings to combat marine biofouling.

Progress. Through multiple phases of funding, many significant milestones have been achieved:

  1. A fully functional combinatorial workflow was developed that enables the synthesis, characterization and testing of a few hundred unique polymer coating compositions per month.
  2. A suite of high-throughput biological assays were developed to rapidly assess antifouling and fouling-release character of coatings.
  3. Novel, environmentally-friendly coating compositions have been developed that exhibit both antifouling character and excellent fouling-release performance.
  4. Patent applications based on promising coating compositions have been filed.
  5. Many publications based on both novel high-throughput methods and new coating compositions have been produced.

Greg McCarthy (program manager) –
Bret Chisholm (materials) –
Dean Webster (materials) –
Shane Stafslien (biological assays) –

This material is based on research sponsored by the Office of Naval Research under agreement number N00014-07-1-1099, and prior agreements.