University of Florida, Gainesville
Center for Macromolecular Science and Engineering - University of Florida Polymer Science Program

A New Approach to Producing Environmentally Friendly Marine Coatings

The inspiration for the shark skin model came when Tony Brennan was visiting Pearl Harbor during a conference. He noticed that submarines coming out of the water were covered in algae and barnacles. Brennan noted that some marine animals, such as humpback whales, are covered in barnacles. Yet other animals, such as sharks, have no organisms growing on them. This led him to believe that there was something about the surface of a shark's skin that prevents adhesion of algae and barnacles. When Brennan returned to Florida, he and a colleague caught a live shark off the Atlantic coast and made an imprint of its skin with dental material. After analyzing the imprint, Brennan and his research group realized that the surface of the shark's skin was similar to models of an ideal hydrophobic surface which they were researching.

Brennan's group recreated the shark skin out of silicone using processing techniques typically used in the microelectronics industry. Brennan showed that if the features of the shark scales are slightly smaller than the spore of an algae plant, then the Sharklet AFTM surface could inhibit adhesion by approximately 75%. Brennan has shown a similar response for other organisms, such as barnacles and bacteria.

This technology is of great interest for the Navy, which spends hundreds of millions of dollars per year to prevent marine growth on its ships. Algae and barnacle growth increases the drag on ships - causing them to move slower and use more fuel. Copper-based, toxic paints are currently used to prevent these organisms from adhering, but it also kills other marine life in ports which the ships are docked. The Sharklet AFTM coating that Brennan has developed is environmentally friendly and does not use toxic chemicals.

This research has attracted interest from numerous sources. In 2007, Brennan was featured on the Discovery Channel's Shark Week to discuss the Sharklet AFTM coating he developed. Additionally, the journal Biofouling is currently featuring Brennan's model for adhesion on its cover. Interest has also been generated in corporate industry. In 2007, Sharklet Technologies LLC obtained the rights to the Sharklet AFTM patents from the University of Florida and is developing a company based off of this technology.

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Scott Cooper,, 352-392-6656

Tony Brennan,, 352-392-6281


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