The Australian Department of Defence’s Defence Science and Technology (DST) is collaborating with the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) to develop a new approach that would use ultraviolet (UV) light to protect particular sensitive areas on a vessel’s hull from biofouling.
Biofouling is the term given to the accumulation of marine life on a vessel’s hull.
Researchers from DST and AIMS have found that colonising organisms that absorb UV light are unable to replicate.
In addition to protecting ships and the environment from marine pests, the use of the UV light could help reduce operational costs for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).
Australian Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said: “I welcome this collaboration to combat what is a major problem for the RAN and commercial shipping.
“Biofouling increases drag, can block water inlets and degrade sensors, and adds significantly to operational costs.
“It can also lead to the introduction of marine pests into new areas.”
Alternative anti-biofouling solutions are currently available, however the majority of them are designed for temperate climates and are therefore not suitable for use in the tropical waters of Australia.
Furthermore, some of the anti-biofouling technologies have been found to pollute the environment or have limited effect when the vessel is stationary.
The research collaboration between DST and AIMS is primarily focused on studying and assessing several advanced biofouling technologies, including the use of UV light.
The five-year study aims to develop a camera housing that emits UV light from the surface in order to deter biofouling organisms.
Researchers are currently testing the technology in Australia’s tropical waters at the AIMS research station near Townsville.
Pyne further said that the initial results of the experiment indicate that the test surfaces remained free from fouling for prolonged periods, irrespective of location or circumstances.