Friday, November 25, 2016

Biofouling 101

You may have heard of biofuels as an industrial research buzzword, but have you heard of biofouling?
Short for biological fouling, this process refers to how algae, microorganisms, plants, and larger animals attach themselves to wet surfaces and accumulate there. It happens on a small scale, as when bacteria tarnishes coins when these are damp, and on a significantly bigger one – as when seaweed, barnacles, and mussels clamp onto underwater beams. When the latter happens, biofouling could damage or weaken anything from bridge supports, to electric cables, to ship hulls. 
Scientists attempt to counter biofouling through anti-fouling methods. These methods aim to remove or prevent harmful species from accumulating on underwater structures.

Biofouling can be fought in different ways, including:

Anti-fouling construction design. Hulls, piles, bolts, and practically any submerged maritime components are built using materials like Muntz metal, a copper-heavy brass alloy. Over time and under water, copper would leach off the alloy, deterring organisms from attaching themselves to it.

Protective coatings. Underwater components are also coated with non-toxic anti-fouling paint that keep organisms from latching on.

Biomimicry. This practice, applied in a variety of fields, entails creating imitations of things in nature to help solve problems. It may yet turn out that scientists make it seem as if organisms have already accumulated on certain surfaces – deterring real organisms from doing it themselves.

Ships and boats, which arguably all suffer from biofouling, are also sailed under guidelines that aim to mitigate biofouling’s effects. Aside from construction and maintenance, these guidelines cover routes in consideration of water temperature, salt levels, and the number of biofouling species in an area. They also cover the speeds ships can travel through organism-rich waters, plus the amount of time they can stay moored in certain locations.

No comments:

Post a Comment