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Advanced nanostructured surfaces for the control of biofouling

Final Report Summary - AMBIO (Advanced nanostructured surfaces for the control of biofouling)

'Advanced Nanostructured Surfaces for the Control of Biofouling' (AMBIO) was an R&D Integrated Project funded by the European Commission under Sixth Framework Programme. The five-year project, started in March 2005, is highly interdisciplinary, operating at the frontiers of diverse disciplines, including nanotechnology, polymer science, surface science, coating technology, hydrodynamics and marine biology.

The project integrated 31 partners from industries, universities and research organisations and a significant number of end-user stakeholders was involved. Twelve EU Member States were represented as well as Turkey, Israel and Norway. AMBIO demonstrates the strength of the EC's large Integrated project concept, in that, for the first time in Europe, the efforts of a critical mass of researchers, with diverse skills, and representing several sectors and stakeholder organisations, was concentrated on the challenge presented by the need to introduce novel, non-biocidal technologies to control the economically and environmentally important problem of biofouling.

Biofouling is the colonisation of submerged surfaces by unwanted organisms such as bacteria, barnacles and algae, and has detrimental effects on shipping and leisure vessels, heat exchangers, oceanographic sensors and aquaculture systems. Biofouling is a major problem throughout the European and global aquaculture industries. Biofouling on farm infrastructure greatly reduces the efficiency of materials and equipment. Problem areas include immersed offshore-structures such as cages, netting and pontoons, on-shore equipment and structures such as pipelines, pumps, filters and holding tanks. Cost estimates for small shellfish producers indicate that biofouling leads to annual costs of EUR 96,000 per year, per farm.

The AMBIO project addressed a strategic need to strengthen research excellence in the application of nanosciences to help solve the applied problem of aquatic biofouling, within relevant European industry. The overall goal of the project was to provide a combination of fundamental and application-oriented research that will lead to the development of novel coatings that will prevent or reduce the adhesion of fouling organisms through the physico-chemical properties of the surface, rather than the release of biocides. The research on nanoscale interfacial properties of different surfaces and how organisms adhere will allow understanding how anti-biofouling systems can work at the nanoscale.

To achieve this goal the project aimed to take advantage of the new opportunities for designing and manipulating antifouling surfaces provided by nanotechnology. Nanostructuring of a coating controls many surface and bulk properties that are relevant to an antifouling, 'non-stick 'surface, such as surface energy, charge, conductivity, porosity, roughness, wettability, friction, modulus, physical and chemical reactivity, and compatibility with organisms. An additional goal of the project was to improve our understanding (theoretical and empirical) of how surface properties influence the adhesion processes of fouling organisms. This was achieved by hypothesis-driven experimentation that takes advantage of new technologies for creating surfaces with controlled and precisely known nano- and micro-scale properties.

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