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Research project

FOUL-X-SPEL (Environmentally friendly antifouling technology to optimise the energy efficiency of ships)

Project overview

This project takes into consideration the adhesion of microorganisms and, algae to the coated hull surfaces, which are the precursors to later fixation of macro-organisms, and are known to cause serious hydrodynamic penalties themselves. The basic idea concerns the modification of usual hull applications by providing a new antifouling coating utilising covalently fixed bioactive molecules, which can provide biocide activity, in order to avoid leaching and to promote a long-term effect of surface protection. This requires the binding through a molecular bridge and to study the effective concentration of the bound active compounds. The new surface coating technology will by this way minimize the surface roughness and improve ship hydrodynamic performance.
Biofouling is one of more important factors that affect the efficiency of waterborne transportation since ships consume less fuel when their hulls are clean and smooth - free from marine fouling organisms, such as barnacles, algae or molluscs. With an estimated 300 million tonnes of bunker fuel oil consumed annually by the world's fleet there is an ever increasing focus on shipping's environmental footprint. The International Maritime Organization, IMO, (2009) estimates that without corrective action and the introduction of new technologies, air emissions, due to increased bunker fuel consumption by the world shipping fleet, could increase by between 38% and 72% by 2020. It is estimated that antifouling coatings provide the shipping industry with annual fuel savings of $60 billion and reduced emissions of 384 million tonnes and 3.6 million tonnes, respectively for carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide per annum.

This is a joint project with 9 other European and UK partners (Instituto Superior Technico - Portugal, Estaleiros Navais de Peniche, S.A. - Portugal, Hempel Paints - Denmark, Fundacion Tekniker - Spain, University of Strathclyde - UK, Instituto de Soldadura e Qualidade - Portugal, Carnival plc. - UK, Lloyd's Register EMEA - UK, National Technical University of Athens - Greece).


Lead researcher

Professor Julian Wharton

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Collaborating research institutes, centres and groups

Research outputs