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Technology update: Antifouling coatings

SpecialChem / Jan 12, 2005

Any object immersed in seawater will rapidly attract the attention of marine fouling algae (seaweeds) and animals such as barnacles, molluscs and tubeworms. Though freshwater fouling is usually less serious, the Zebra mussel was accidentally introduced from Europe to the Great Lakes of North America in the mid-1980s, has multiplied rapidly, and is causing severe problems there by fouling water intakes and other static structures. Fouling of ships' hulls by marine organisms reduces speed and can increase fuel consumption by as much as 40% in some cases. Though speed and fuel consumption are irrelevant on piers and static platforms, fouling both accelerates corrosion and increases the risk of damage from heavy waves, impact or vibration. As fouling organisms require the presence of minerals, warmth and organic nutrients, fouling occurs most readily on static structures or ships moving slowly in waters close to land, where there is a run-off of nutrients from rivers. Thus, the selection of a suitable antifouling coating depends on how much time is spent in coastal waters at low speed or moored, and on average water temperatures.

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