Nanotechnology will play a crucial role in managing vessel corrosion and biofouling in the future, according to a major maritime study
Leading European scientists have released details of a study on the potential of nanotechnology marine applications as part of the two-year KETmaritime project. The International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory (INL) is the lead partner in the €1.0M (US$1.1M) initiative backed by the European Regional Development Fund.
KETmaritime project coordinator Ana Vila said humidity and salinity levels at sea cause around 30% of all vessel failures, repair needs and equipment malfunctions. Corrosion and biofouling are two major by-products impacting vessel materials, durability and performance. While traditional solutions including protective coatings and paints partially offset the degradation process, new nanotechnology is proving considerably more efficient.
“Corrosion and biofouling are two major challenges for vessel operators,” said Ms Vila. “In the case of corrosion, the deterioration process is caused by an electrochemical attack. This leads to a progressive process of oxidation putting the integrity of vessel material in danger. This comes at a considerable cost to marine operators in terms of maintenance and repair activities. Biofouling, meanwhile, involves a build-up of organic mass which can modify the shape and hydrodynamic behaviour of material. This can lead to increased water resistance and fuel consumption. Both phenomena continue to pose challenges because the current manufacturing and treatment process of materials present defects. Although small, these defects favour both the oxidation processes and the accumulation of biomass.
“However, new solutions are now being explored through the development of nanostructured coatings using nanoparticulate substances. These coatings are capable of providing superior protection because they involve substances which form and interact on previously unreachable scales, in which the corrosion and biofouling processes begin. As part of the KETmaritime project, the INL is currently working with Portuguese firm UNDERSEE to implement state-of-the-art technologies to increase the lifetime of sensors in respect to biofouling. Nanotechnology further offers environmental benefits by maximising the anti-adherent or repulsive capabilities of a surface and eliminating the need for biocides.”
The latest study was led by Spanish technology centre IDONIAL in collaboration with Marine South East in the UK and the INL. According to the report, numerous companies are already developing specialised nanotech products to tackle corrosion and biofouling. New products include nanoadditives such as nano-ZnO, nanoalumina, nanosilica.
IDONIAL’s representative David Santos said there are a raft of other potential uses for nanotechnology across marine related operations. “There remains huge interest in the potential of nanotechnology due to its innovative approach to products and processes from the smallest achievable physical scale,” he said. “At the molecular or atomic scale, the behaviour of matter can be very different from what is observed at a macro scale. There are many areas across the marine sector which will significantly benefit from new advances in nanotechnology. Our latest report expands in detail on the uses of this technology within shipbuilding, oil and gas operations, fuel additives, alternative powering systems, aquaculture and fisheries.”
The KETmaritime project is being delivered by a consortium of seven partners across Europe in an effort to identify key enabling technologies to support the future needs and demands of the Atlantic maritime industry. The consortium includes French multidisciplinary research laboratory CIMAP (CEA group), Portuguese maritime economic cluster Fórum Oceano and Spanish industrial design centre IDONIAL. Ireland’s national centre for marine and renewable energy MaREI and UK marine cluster organisation Marine South East are delivering further support, alongside Spanish non-profit research association AIMEN.
The impact of nanotechnology and the application of current coating technologies will be discussed by Safinah’s general manager marine consulting Carl Barnes at the 2019 Tanker Shipping & Trade Conference, Exhibition and Awards. Voting is also now open for the Awards. See the nomination here.