NSTDA launches innovative antifouling film “FleXARs”. by Thai researchers Environmentally friendly marine protection

The problem of hulls sticking to the surface of ocean ships oil rig pole and subsea engineering structures made of carbon steel. It is considered a global problem causing damage worth up to 4.5 trillion baht a year. Operators incur huge costs on protection and maintenance. Furthermore, the protection processes currently used are highly toxic to the environment and dangerous to aquatic life.

National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NETEC)
National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) debut “FleXARs” (Flexas) an innovative film to prevent the adhesion of living things on the surface. environmentally friendly For use in surface protection of marine vessels. oil rig pole and buildings in the sea

Dr. Nithi Atti, Research Team Leader, Surface Microfluidic Materials and Devices Innovation (SMD-1), Microelectronics Technology Center (TMEC), NECTEC, NSTDA. tells about the origin of technology development that is Currently around the world, especially in the marine industry. having to face a big problem of the adhesion of ship’s shells on ships, machinery and construction such as carbon steel Because the ship’s shells released to adhere to the surface of the material will form ants or small holes (Pinholes), causing high corrosion. In addition, the presence of a large amount of ship shells leads to an increased pressure of ocean ships water resistance Causes fuel to be used to drive more than usual Higher carbon dioxide emissions which is a major cause that also leads to global warming

These issues are well known to operators in the marine industry. However, there is no current technology that can completely solve those problems. both in terms of environmental friendliness protection efficiency and tangible price
Dr. Nithi said that in order to solve such problems the research team collaborated with the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), Republic of China (Taiwan), and the Fraunhofer Institute, Federal Republic of Germany. In research and development of innovative FleXARs films with extraordinary hydrophobic and non-stick properties. (Superamphiphobic surface) to solve the problem of adhesion of organisms on upstream material surfaces. By making the mucus released by microscopic organisms unable to stick to the surface of the material.

This new technology could be used to replace antifouling paints that endanger the life of small aquatic animals. And it’s safer than sending divers down to spray high-pressure water to remove the shells from the surface. Nor does it interfere with mammalian communication like ultrasound is used to repel barnacle larvae from surfaces.

Dr Nithi explains that the research team, when developing FleXARs film, focused on 3 main areas to make the material very durable. it can be used in a variety of environments And is suitable for production for industrial use The first part of the development is the design of a robust 500 micrometer microstructure that is strong, contact resistant and able to withstand external forces. By printing such patterns on low surface energy materials, such as polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), the surface of FleXARs films has excellent hydrophobic and oil repellency properties. The second development is the production of FleXARs films as large as 30 cm wide and 300 m long per roll. The film is thin, clear and flexible for convenience on large substrates. and the third is to develop a self-adhesive film backing layer for easy attachment of FleXARs to substrates. Reduce installation complexity and time.

Dr. Nithi explains that pathogenic micro-organisms such as bacteria, viruses and fungi need a sticky layer or biofilm to stick to the surface just like marine ship shells which release slime to stick to materials. Therefore, eliminating those factors in the first place will help reduce the build-up of bacteria as well. Tests have shown that FleXARs surface has a 25% reduction in bacterial accumulation and biofilm formation over Teflon, which is commonly used for medical surface coatings. This makes the film suitable for use with medical equipment Use in a hospital this includes locations with high levels of exposure, such as public transport. shopping centres, airports, especially during outbreaks of pathogens

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