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Bubbles vs biofilms: a novel method for the removal of marine biofilms attached on antifouling coatings using an ultrasonically activated water stream

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Dr Maria Salta
  • Liam Goodes
  • Bernard Maas
  • Simon Dennington
  • Tomas Secker
  • Tim Leighton
The accumulation of marine organisms on a range of manmade surfaces, termed biofouling, has proven to be the Achilles’s heel of the shipping industry. Current antifouling coatings, such as Foul Release Coatings (FRCs), only partially inhibit biofouling, since biofilms remain a major issue. Mechanical ship hull cleaning is commonly employed to remove biofilms, but these methods tend to damage the antifouling coating and often do not result in full removal. Here, we report the effectiveness of biofilm removal from FRCs through a novel cleaning device that uses an Ultrasonically Activated Stream (UAS). In this device, ultrasound enhances the cleaning properties of microbubbles in a freely flowing stream of water. The UAS was applied on two types of commercial FRCs which were covered with biofilm growth following twelve days immersion in the marine environment. Biofilm removal was quantified in terms of reduction in biovolume and surface roughness, both measured using an optical profilometer, which were then compared with similar measurements after cleaning with a non-ultrasonically activated water stream. It was found that the UAS significantly improves the cleaning capabilities of a water flow, up to the point where no detectable biofilm remained on the coating surfaces. Overall biofilm surface coverage was significantly lower on the FRC coatings cleaned with the UAS system when compared to the coatings cleaned with water or not cleaned at all. When biofilm biomass removal was investigated, the UAS system resulted in significantly lower biovolume values even when compared to the water cleaning treatment with biovolume values close to zero. Remarkably, the surface roughness of the coatings after cleaning with the UAS was found to be comparable to that of the blank, non-immersed coatings, illustrating that the UAS did not damage the coatings in the process.
Original languageEnglish
Article number034009
JournalSurface Topography: Metrology and Properties
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 19 Sep 2016


  • Salta_etal_2016_accepted MS

    Rights statement: The final published version of M Salta et al 2016 Surf. Topogr.: Metrol. Prop. 4 034009, is available at DOI:10.1088/2051-672X/4/3/034009.

    Accepted author manuscript (Post-print), 1.12 MB, PDF document

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