Specialized seeds can really float your boat

Jul 04, 2011
Specialized seeds can really float your boat
The evolution of a seed-inspired anti-fouling coating. From extreme left: Dypsis rivularis seeds; Electron microscope image of the seed surface; Electron microscope image of the artificial surface based on the seeds; Test panel of artificial surface after 12 weeks in the North Sea, showing minimal fouling. Credit: Biomimetics-Innovation-Centre (B-I-C), University of Applied Sciences.

A new artificial surface inspired by floating seeds, which could provide an alternative to the toxic paints currently used to prevent fouling on ship hulls, has been developed by German scientists.

Scientists from the Biomimetics-Innovation-Centre have developed a new anti-fouling surface based on a seed from a species of palm tree. "These have which are dispersed by the . As it is an advantage for these seeds to remain free of fouling to allow them to disperse further, we guessed they might have specialised surfaces we could mimic," explains Katrin Mühlenbruch, a PhD researcher who is presenting this work at the Society for Experimental Biology Annual Conference in Glasgow on the 4th of July 2011.

The researchers floated seeds from 50 species in the North Sea for 12 weeks. The seeds of 12 species showed no fouling at all. "We then began by examining the micro-structure of the seeds' surfaces, to see if we could translate them into an artificial surface. The seeds we chose to mimic had a hairy-like structure," says Ms. Mühlenbruch. "This structure might be especially good at preventing fouling because the fibres constantly move, preventing marine organisms from finding a place to settle."

Using a silicone base the scientists created an artificial surface similar to the seeds, with fibres covering the surface. Currently the new surface is being trialled by floating it in the sea. "Initial results are quite good," says Ms. Mühlenbruch. "But we still have a long way to go"

Fouling by seaweeds and marine animals is a problem for the shipping industry, resulting in increased fuel costs. Currently the only solutions are highly toxic and environmentally damaging marine paints which are specifically designed to leach biocides to prevent organisms settling on the hull. "Our aim is to provide a new toxin-free and bio-inspired ship coating," says Ms. Mühlenbruch. "This would prevent environmental damage while allowing ships to operate efficiently."

Future work will include analysing the chemical composition of the seeds' , to find out whether this adds to their anti-fouling properties.

Explore further: Efficient synthesis of polyurethane raw materials from carbon dioxide

Provided by Society for Experimental Biology

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Shark skin saves naval industry money

Jul 15, 2005

Covering ship hulls with artificial shark skin could help ships sailing smoothly. The growth of marine organisms such as barnacles on ship hulls is a major cause of increased energy costs in the naval industry. Shark skin ...

First images of barnacle larva's footprint

Oct 27, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- The fouling or growth of sea organisms, such as barnacles, on ships’ hulls causes damage costing many billions of euros annually. In order to prevent this fouling, In Yee Phang of the University ...

Gene that causes barnacles to avoid ship hulls identified

Aug 16, 2010

The substance medetomidine has proved effective in preventing fouling of ship bottoms. Researchers at the University of Gothenburg have now identified the gene that causes the barnacle to react to the substance, ...

Barnacles prove hard to please when house-hunting

Nov 12, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- It’s a tough life out at sea so you might think a small crustacean would be happy to take what it can get when it comes to finding a home - not the humble barnacle.

Recommended for you

Electronic switches on the molecular scale

19 hours ago

A molecular electronic switch is a junction created from individual molecules that can alternate between two or more stable states, making the switch act as a conductor or an insulator. These switches show ...

Mimicking photosynthesis with man-made leaves

19 hours ago

Scientists have long been trying to emulate the way in which plants harvest energy from the sun through photosynthesis. Plants are able to absorb photons from even weak sunlight using light antennae made ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.