Commercialization of Natural Antifouling Compound should Improve Marina Ecosystems
In February 2009, scientists from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science and their colleagues announced the discovery of a naturally-occurring compound from a Caribbean sponge, Agelas conifera, which reduces fouling of marine vessels while exhibiting low toxicity to humans and marine species. The agents reduce fouling by stopping the production of biofilms by bacteria that form a base for the collection of barnacles, algae, and other organisms often found on the bottom of boats and ships.
The colleagues at North Carolina State University developed synthetic derivatives from the compound that companies hope to commercially manufacture, and NCCOS scientists are working with several U.S. Department of Defense offices to use the derivatives in marine paints in the future. The compounds have also been licensed for testing in stents, arterial lines, and other medical devices to determine whether they can serve as an anti-fouling agent in the human health arena as well.
Biofilms and other marine vessels fouling costs billions of dollars each year. These new derivatives could replace harmful copper or tin chemicals in marine paint formulas that, by law, must be eliminated this year, and save money with improved maneuverability and energy efficiency of vessels.