If you put a ship in a harbour and leave it over time, algae and mussels grow on the surface. The subsequent drag consumes energy and has the potential to introduce unwanted marine life into eco-sensitive areas when the ship moves through the water. Before the early 2000s, the problem was solved by copper paint that kept boats clean—with disastrous environmental consequences. Copper paint is now banned in many countries.
Professor Mats Andersson and his team are developing an anti-biofouling paint, or coating, that prevents the growth of species like algae and mussels. The coating pulls copper from the sea while a ship is in the harbour and then passes a current to release the naturally occurring copper back into the ocean when it leaves the harbour. Amazingly, Mats has proved that it works. They’ve developed a material that draws copper from the water and holds it to a surface. The next step is releasing the copper back into the water. Once it’s working, this coating could be the environmentally-friendly answer to the problem of algae, mussels and other sea life impacting on marine transport.