Environment Anti-fouling remedy reduces the barnacle bill

Anti-fouling remedy reduces the barnacle bill

We can’t all be Marie Kondo but what if we could stop mess at a molecular level?

Researchers at the University of Wollongong are doing just that with a revolutionary new material which stops micro-organisms like bacteria building up on surfaces.

The substance could be incorporated in a range of products such as anti-fouling paint to prevent barnacles growing on ships.

Or medical implants, reducing the risk of infection and cutting cleaning costs.

The secret ingredient is colloidal silica, tiny glass beads which bind together to form a coating.

Researcher Paul Molino says the team realised its potential while examining the substance under an ultra-powerful microscope.

“We discovered that these silica colloids have remarkable, broad-ranging antifouling properties, with the ability to prevent adsorption of proteins, and attachment and colonisation of bacteria and micro-organisms,” Dr Molino says.

It all comes down to the way they interact with water: the beads create an unstable or moving film when covered, rather than an ordered network of molecules.

Micro-organisms need food and water to grow but they also need a stable surface, so the beads are perfect for repelling them.

The next step will be developing a simple and cheap version of the material for industry.

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