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Sea of Green: nanochemical systems for energy efficient maritime transport

The marine transport industry accounts for 1,000 million tonnes of CO2 emissions each year and emissions are predicted to increase around 250% by 2050. Researchers at the University of Liverpool are mitigating the ecological and economical costs by using eco-friendly nanochemicals that keep ship hulls cleaner and more hydrodynamic for better fuel efficiency.

The challenge

The accumulation of microorganisms, plants and small animals on wet surfaces, a natural but undesirable phenomenon known as biofouling, increases shipping fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by up to 40%.

Work led by Professor Dmitry Shchukin has delivered an environmentally friendly, cost-efficient class of antifouling materials. It has the potential to greatly reduce CO2 emissions in this vital transport sector, which are projected to reach 17% of global CO2 production by 2050.

Research action

Shchukin’s group have developed an innovative and careful design to control nanocapsules that release the antifouling agent on demand over years, preventing the need for regular manual hull cleaning and reducing maintenance costs. It can also be painted onto existing ships, massively increasing real-world use and environmental benefits.

Working in partnerships

Working within a large EU consortium of 19 academic partners and companies called the Byefouling programme, the Liverpool team have rapidly translated their fundamental advances into practical application in the paints industry. Closely interacting academic and industrial teams have ensured a focus on developing a product fit for purpose in the stern tests of the world’s oceans. The work was delivered by Liverpool’s Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy.

Outputs and outcomes

The products designed by Shchukin's group are currently undergoing field trials to test antifouling activity on industrial shipping fleets. Biofouling causes significant problems in other major industry sectors including aquaculture, wind farms and offshore oil industries. The new antifouling agents can also reduce operational expenses caused by microorganism on underwater platforms, pipelines and sea-farms.

Nanocapsule technology has delivered an environmentally friendly, cost-efficient class of antifouling materials that can significantly reduce CO2 emissions in shipping and allied industries.

Professor Dmitry Shchukin

Back to: Department of Chemistry