Novel marine coating from Jilin University has natural antifoulants and low surface energy that help prevent biofouling and reduce friction.


  • Reduced fuel consumption
  • Reduced emissions
  • Antifouling


  • Marine vehicles & surfaces

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 11: Sustainable Cities & Communities

  • Goal 12: Responsible Production & Consumption

  • Goal 14: Life Below Water


  • Coral

The Challenge

The shipping industry is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions due to the huge amount of fuel consumption from barges that transport containers across the ocean. Excess build-up of biofouling on boat hulls leads to increased drag, greater fuel costs, and more frequent cleaning. Many existing coatings use biocides to kill the organisms that attach to the hull. The biocide can leach into the water and harm the surrounding ecosystem.

Innovation Details

The coating utilizes a combination of strategies commonly used by corals to prevent fouling. The first is the extraction and utilization of antifouling compounds from the corals themselves. These substances can be used as an ingredient in the coating. Secondly, the use of inert materials such as fluoropolymers and silicon create a coating with a surface that is hard to bind to. Third, coatings with tentacle-like nanostructures physically prevent fouling organisms from attaching. Lastly, a coating with multiple layers, including one of phosphor, emits a weak light that inhibits the settlement of diatoms and algae.

Image: Matt Kieffer / Flickr / CC BY SA - Creative Commons Attribution + ShareAlike

Stony corals have microstructures on the surface that prevent biofouling.

Biomimicry Story

Corals have several antifouling strategies. The first is a naturally occurring, bioactive antifoulant. The second is a low surface energy, which decreases surface adhesion strength, preventing organisms from attaching. The third is the sloughing effect, in which they use a slippery slime to “remove” attached organisms. The fourth is the use of soft external tentacles that prevent organisms from attaching to their surface. And lastly, the use of fluorescent pigments that absorb damaging UV rays.