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June 23rd, 2007
Scientists have developed a novel way to combat one of the world's stickiest and most expensive maritime problems: the encrusting of ships' hulls by algae and barnacles. They have created a special coating, using nanotechnology, that is engineered to a scale of a millionth of a millimetre. Organisms that try to hitch a ride will simply slip off.
The development, announced at the EuroNanoForum in Dusseldorf last week, is important because 'bio-fouling' costs billions of pounds a year, not just to the shipping industry but to private yachtsmen and owners of power and desalination plants whose pipes get blocked by bacteria and barnacles. In addition, ships burn excess fuel with encrusted hulls, increasing carbon emissions; while current anti-fouling paints are thought to harm sealife.
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