Proposed Paint Beats Barnacles

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It’s boating season. Which means it’ll soon be time for that annoying ritual—the scraping of the barnacles. They latch on tight and don’t let go.

Barnacles can be a major pain: as they grow they build up calcium deposits under a boat’s paint. And their interference with smooth fluid flow can decrease fuel efficiency by up to 40 percent, a major problem for large vessels.

Currently, hull paint can be doped with poison, usually based on copper oxide, that leaches out slowly to kill the little critters. But the poison also escapes into the water and can kill other marine life.

Now, researchers might have a better option: a paint additive that kills just the barnacles, using their own behavior against them. It’s a toxin based on a molecule created by a bacterium. The researchers developed a method of embedding that toxin into the paint so that it only gets released when the barnacle penetrates the paint. The info was published in a university thesis. [Emiliano Pinori, Low Biocide Emission Antifouling Based on a Novel Route of Barnacle Intoxication]

The scientists determined that the toxin works in low concentrations and could be effective for years. Which could lower the cost of paying the barnacle bill.

—Cynthia Graber

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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