Marine fouling occurs when organisms attach themselves to underwater objects like boats, rope, pipes and building structures. Mussels are one of the biggest culprits. Once attached, they are difficult to remove, leading to operational downtime, increased energy use and damage. Paints and coatings are currently used to prevent marine fouling, but are frequently toxin-based and not very effective, with adverse environmental and economic impact.
Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute and Harvard SEAS have developed non-toxic, lubricant-infused, slippery surface coatings. Their collaborators at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore showed that these surfaces interfered with the Asian green mussels’ (Perna viridis) ability to adhere to solid surfaces. The research team also tested their slippery coatings at the NOAA Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary in Scituate, MA. The marine sanctuary field site is home to the blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) and a variety of other biofouling organisms, all of which seemed to be repelled by the coating. The team is continuing to test their surfaces at different field sites around the world. This slippery surface coating technology has many potential applications in maritime industries.