A new coating for ships keeps clean by literally shaking off barnacle buildup. The coating moves, at a molecular level, whenever it's stimulated with stretching, pressure or electricity. A ship owner looking to give her hull a clean could then just activate the coating with electricity - no elbow grease needed.
"We have developed a material that wrinkles, or changes its surface, in response to a stimulus," Xuanhe Zhao, an engineer at Duke University who led the development of the coating, said in a statement. "This deformation can effectively detach biofilms and other organisms that have accumulated on the surface."
Barnacles and other marine hangers-on clog underwater sensors and reduce how efficiently ships move through the water. Even bacteria can be a problem, because they create persistent colonies called biofilms that encourage the growth of larger organisms, such as seaweed and shellfish.
Ship owners now can buy several antibacterial paints for ship hulls, but researchers are always looking for a better solution. Zhao and his colleagues at Duke came up with a next-generation coating they say could be produced using chemicals that are commonly used in self-cleaning hull paints today.