SQU research on biofouling prevention featured in Nature

MUSCAT: The study of the research group from the Centre of Excellence in Marine Biotechnology (CEMB), Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) headed by Dr Sergey Dobretsov was published as an article in the Scientific Reports section of nature.com, a division of Nature, which is the world’s most cited scientific journal. The study is entitled “Bioinspired nanocoatings for biofouling prevention byphotocatalytic redox reactions” and has been published online 15 June 2017.
Biofouling is the colonization of submerged surfaces by unwanted organisms, such as bacteria, barnacles, mussels and algae. Fouling is a million dollar problem that has heavy economic penalties for boat owners, industrial equipment working in the sea, desalination plants and cooling systems. Biofouling reduces the speed of vessels and amplify fuel consumption, increases corrosion of metals, clogs heat exchanges and membranes, as well as reduce buoyancy and damage materials. In order to prevent biofouling, toxic compounds have been used to kill fouling organisms for decades. According to Dr Dobretsov all these methods and chemicals are destroying and polluting marine environment. “They are harmful to humans and there is an urgent need for the development of an “environmentally friendly” antifouling protection”, he added.
In the Sultanate, biofouling increases the costs of making drinking water by clogging reverse osmosis membranes of desalination plants. Additionally, biofouling can clog fishing nets and block water exchange across netting, degrade water quality and influence the health and growth of fishes in aquaculture systems. Priyanka Sathe, a PhD student at the Department of Marine Sciences & Fisheries of the College of Agricultural & Marine Sciences at SQU, supervised by Dr Dobretsov has developed antifouling strategies for fishing nets. According to Sathe, some seaweeds produce chemically and biologically active reactive oxygen species (ROS), such as peroxide, hydroxyl radicals and singlet oxygen, to prevent biofouling. “I was inspired by antifouling mechanisms of such algae, and mimic this process by fabricating of photocatalytic nanocoating,” she added.
This coating was made by the researchers of the Centre of Nanotechnology (SQU, Oman) and KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden). The financial support was provided through the Research Council (TRC) of Oman. “Field experiments in Al Mouj marina demonstrated that fishing nets modified with ZnO nanocoating reduce abundances of fouling organisms 3-fold compare to uncoated nets and their antifouling was better than copper-based antifouling paint”, added Sathe. Dr Dobretsov and his team were the first one who tested antifouling properties of such nanocoatings in highly aggressive tropical environment. Previously, antifouling activity of photocatalytic nanocoatings was evaluated only in laboratory studies.