A new European project within the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Commission recently began. The goal of the SEAFRONT (Synergistic Fouling Control Technologies) project is to develop environmentally friendly coatings, which prevent the accumulation of marine organisms on boats, ships, tidal power plants and other aquatic installations. The coatings will be designed to improve operational efficiency, substantially reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and have no negative impact on the marine ecosystem. The Dutch Polymer Institute (DPI) and AkzoNobel are the main contractors of the EU project.
The fouling control coatings to be developed within the project will not leach chemical or other harmful substances that are non-biodegradable in the marine environment. In addition, the coatings will reduce the hydrodynamic resistance of ships and boats, decreasing fuel consumption and thus substantially reducing CO2 emissions. SEAFRONT reports that the goal of the program is to develop new coatings that will lead to considerable savings in operational costs by improving the efficiency of tidal power installations and reducing the frequency of maintenance and cleaning in off-shore infrastructure and aquaculture applications.
SEAFRONT will develop a variety of products for ocean going vessels, not limited to just ships. “The project encompasses the bio-renewables market – wave and turbine, the protective coatings market – oil rigs/platforms ocean wind towers and aquaculture,” said David Williams, RD&I director at AkzoNobel. “We have end-user partners to cover these areas.”
The potential exists for these coatings to be used all over the world. “We do not limit the technology at this stage,” said Williams. “The decision on when and where we use technologies arising from SEAFRONT will be dependent on the performance attributes.”
The project is scheduled to last four years. “We aim to have a prototype coating at the end of the project, but further testing will be needed to validate the performance in the real world,” said Williams. “If we are successful, for some end users we could see rapid commercial development (1-2 years) for the Marine deep sea market it could take longer to assess performance.”
The SEAFRONT project will be implemented within the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) under the Ocean of Tomorrow call. Five multinationals, seven SMEs and seven research institutes spread across eight EU Member States will work together to achieve the goals within the four-year timeframe. DPI is the project coordinator and International Paint Ltd., a business unit of AkzoNobel and a world leader in the field of fouling control coatings, will bring any new coatings based on technology developed within the project to the market. In focusing on the delivery of sustainable products and solutions, the goals of this project perfectly complement the strategic ambitions of AkzoNobel. The project budget amounts to €11.2 million including €8 million from the European Commission.
“Within the project, a number of world leading experts on marine bio-fouling will study the coating bio-fouling interaction by employing their expertise in the fields of marine biology, marine science, genomics, chemistry, bio-corrosion and materials science,” said Williams. “The understanding of how fouling organisms (microorganisms in the case of biofilms) interact with surfaces provides us with the opportunity of developing technologies that deter settlement and/or reduce adhesion of marine organism adhesives.”
In addition to the development of environmentally friendly coatings, SEAFRONT aims to significantly enhance the fundamental understanding of fouling organisms and the mechanisms of settlement and adhesion. Particular attention will be paid to a better understanding of marine biofilm or so-called marine slime. This part of the research will be led by Professor Tony Clare of Newcastle University (UK), an internationally renowned marine biologist. The insights gained in these studies will enable SEAFRONT to develop concepts and technologies for enhanced performance, the ultimate goal being a completely non-fouling surface.
Jacques Joosten, managing director of DPI, said of the project: "We are very pleased with the start of SEAFRONT, the third project to be coordinated by DPI within the Seventh Framework Programme. By initiating and coordinating such projects we create added value for our current and future industrial and academic partners." David Williams, RD&I Director, AkzoNobel Marine & Protective Coatings commented: “We are both delighted and excited to be part of SEAFRONT, which provides a collaborative framework for us to innovate openly with our partners within the project.”
“This is an excellent opportunity to work with world class academics, suppliers and coating end-users on a collaborative, multi-disciplinary project,” said Williams.