A superhydrophobic coating on the outside of ships reduces frictional resistance, allowing vessels to move more easily through the water.

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A consortium of ten European partners, in coordination with the Fraunhofer Center for Maritime Logistics and Services (CML), is working together on the AIRCOAT (Air Induced friction Reduction COATing) project to develop a biomimetic hull coating that reduces the frictional resistance of ships. This coating works similarly to Salvinia leaves by creating a thin air layer that acts as a physical barrier between the water and the outside of the ship. The coating helps to reduce fuel oil consumption and gas emissions, as less energy will be required to move the ship forward, making transport more sustainable. The air barrier created by AIRCOAT will also help reduce the attachment of bacteria and algae that cause fouling.

Biomimicry Story

When submerged underwater, the leaves of Salvinia ferns are able to surround themselves with a layer of air to prevent water from touching the plant’s surface. This is accomplished with the use of tiny hydrophobic hairs covering the leaf surfaces. The tips of these hairs are hydrophilic, serving to ‘staple’ the water to the plant at various intervals, assuring that the layer of air created by the hydrophobic surfaces is maintained.

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References

Web page
The Horizon 2020 AIRCOAT project: A Biomimetic Hull Coating to revolutionise the ship coating sector?Fraunhofer Center for Maritime Logistics and Services CMLApril 26, 2018

Journal article
The Salvinia Paradox: Superhydrophobic Surfaces with Hydrophilic Pins for Air Retention Under WaterAdvanced Materials, 22: 2325-2328April 28, 2010
Barthlott W, Schimmel T, Wiersch S, Koch K, Brede M, Barczewski M, Walheim S, Weis A, Kaltenmaier A, Leder A, Bohn HF

Journal article
Air–water interface of submerged superhydrophobic surfaces imaged by atomic force microscopy.Beilstein Journal of Nanotechnology 8(1): 1671-1679.Moosmann, M., T. Schimmel, W. Barthlott and M. Mail

Journal article
Luft haltende Schiffsbeschichtungen nach biologischem Vorbild zur Reibungsreduktion/ Air retaining biomimetic ship coatings for drag reduction.BIONA - Bionische Innovationen für nachhaltige Produkte und Technologien.November 29, 2018
Barthlott, W. and A. Leder (2012).

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