Non-stick hull material beats the barnacles

A non-stick material to which even bacteria fail to adhere has been developed by researchers at Plymouth University. The material, originally designed as an anti-fouling agent for ships, has medical, healthcare and food industry applications. The research team, which had funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, aimed to stop the fouling caused […]

A non-stick material to which even bacteria fail to adhere has been developed by researchers at Plymouth University.

The material, originally designed as an anti-fouling agent for ships, has medical, healthcare and food industry applications.

The research team, which had funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, aimed to stop the fouling caused by bacteria sticking to hulls. Algae follow, then barnacles and other ocean creatures.

The team found bacteria secrete a glue to help them stick to a surface. Materials stick to each other using attractions called van der Waals forces. The team managed to minimise the electrostatic interactions of these forces by developing a silicone material in which hydrogen atoms were replaced with acrylates and fluorine atoms. The result was that the bacterial glue sat on the material’s surface like water on a Teflon frying pan, said research group leader Dr John Tsibouklis.

He is now looking for an industrial partner to commercialise the research.