UV light research underway to protect ships and marine environment

HMAS Perth sails through the calm seas with her two Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs), Fight and Flourish, alongside. Image via Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence.

Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) are researching the use of ultra-violet light as a means to protect sensitive areas on a ship’s hull from biofouling.

The five-year research project is aimed at experimenting with a number of advanced biofouling technologies, including the use of UV light. Biofouling is the accumulation of marine life on a ship's hull.

Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne, who announced the research agreement between DST Group and AIMS, said the research could hold the key to reducing operational costs for Defence and protect ships and the environment from marine pest invaders.

"I welcome this collaboration to combat what is a major problem for the Royal Australian Navy and commercial shipping," Minister Pyne said.

"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."

Many different anti-biofouling technologies are used but most are designed for temperate climates and do not perform well in Australia’s tropical waters, and some can pollute the environment or have limited effect when the ship is stationary.

One aim of the five-year project is to develop a camera housing that emits UV light from the surface. Researchers have found colonising organisms absorb UV light and are unable to replicate.

A team of Defence and AIMS scientists are now testing the technology in tropical waters at the AIMS research station near Townsville.

Minister Pyne said that initial results show the test surfaces are free from fouling for prolonged periods, regardless of location or circumstances.

"The results look promising and will have wide ranging benefits for Defence, commercial shipping and the environment," he said.

UV light research underway to protect ships and marine environment
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