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ASC and Flinders Uni research bio-fouling

Flinders University’s Associate Professor Sophie Leterme and Professor Mats Andersson at ASC reviewing the research. Image: ASC

Breakthrough experiments conducted at ASC’s deep submarine maintenance facility in Adelaide have demonstrated how electrically charged surface coatings can eliminate marine bio-fouling, or sea organism growth, potentially improving the operation and maintenance of naval vessels.

The research, led by Flinders University with partners ASC, the University of South Australia and the Department of Defence, is funded by the South Australian Defence Innovation Partnership (DIP) program and aims to develop practical applications that could end the scourge of marine bio-fouling, which costs billions each year worldwide.

Flinders University’s Professor Mats Andersson, Director of Flinders Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology and Theme leader in the Biofilm Research and Innovation Consortium, said the latest inspections of the samples showed the research was performing exceptionally well.

“Our tests have shown that fouling can be significantly reduced and, in some cases, completely eliminated on the surfaces that are coated with a conducting paint and subject to electrochemical stress,” said Professor Andersson.

The so-called ‘active anti-fouling’ experiments have tested a range of materials, coatings and electrical cycles, comparing them against non-electrically stressed samples.

ASC, which maintains and upgrades Australia’s Collins-Class submarine fleet, is supporting the innovative research by providing advice and laboratory and wharf facilities for submerging the samples. Researchers from the University of South Australia are providing expert advice and samples for coating materials.

ASC Principal Development Engineer – Materials, Mikael Johansson, said marine bio-fouling caused obstructions to key areas of the hull that were time consuming and expensive to clear.

“Warships and submarines use sea water in the cooling systems of propulsion and weapons systems — even air conditioning. Making sure the inlet valves, which let that water in, don’t become clogged with marine life, is a priority,” said Mr Johansson.

“This research could lead to protecting various parts of the Collins Class submarine hulls, leading to fewer interruptions to naval operations and less maintenance.”

The research program is being funded with the assistance of $150,000 from the DIP, supported by the South Australian Government and the Department of Defence.

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