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How to prevent vegetative growth on ships using green solutions?

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J. Nikola
J. Nikola Dec 20, 2022
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If you ever visited a harbour, you saw that there are some ships on the dry land waiting for service. Ideally every year, a boat owner should take his boat out, brush the bottom to remove the vegetative growth (flora and fauna that stuck to the bottom of the boat) and repaint the boat to protect it from leaking, rust and more vegetation.
How can we prevent or reduce vegetative growth (biofilm) without applying nasty chemicals?
Why?
  • vegetative growth slows the boat down and increase the fuel consumption
  • nasty chemicals end up in the sea
  • they ensure only a year-round protection
2
Creative contributions

Fish spa for ships

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Dec 20, 2022
Fish spa is keeping your feet in a pool with fish that eat the dead skin off your feet.
Here, I am utilizing this idea for ships. The two most common animals that attach to the ship's surface are algae and barnacles. Therefore, we need fish that eat barnacles and algae off the ship keel. The Sheephead is a fish that eats barnacles. There may be other such fish. There are numerous fish that can eat algae off a surface. Algae eaters attach themselves to the surface and remove the algae attached to it.
Now, to make the process easier for ships, create a lagoon near all major ports in the world. The lagoon will harbor the above-mentioned fish. Other fish that eat other animals attached to the ship's surface can be identified and introduced. The ship will enter the lagoon and spend a few days there. The fish will remove the attached animals and the ship will then be free to travel.
A diver could check for the amount of clean-up done and indicate if the ship is ready to travel. The diver could also check for any damage to the ship and the ship could be sent to the yard for repairs.
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J. Nikola
J. Nikola2 months ago
Great idea! Now let's talk about how to make it happen and what things to check.
  • We should find a way how to test the efficiency of the vegetative growth removal by this method. Fishes could be eating only the soft parts of the animals and plants, while some harder ones, small shells and calcifications could remain. How could we design this experiment and express the (hopefully) observed reduction in vegetative growth mass?
  • What species would you use? Let's try to create a list of all species that could be used, so that they can be easily chosen for the right environment based on saltiness, temperature, acidity, etc. The best would be to use local species and not to introduce foreign and potentially invasive species.
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni2 months ago
J. Nikola Agreed. Barnacles take some time to mount a surface and attach to it. They secrete a cement-like substance that fortifies the attachment. The Sheephead fish that I mentioned has molars-like teeth that can break the shells. Here is a video of the Sheephead eating a clam. Therefore, an old (not in use) ship keep could be used to test the idea. However, the barnacles should be still alive. Even after they are dead inside, the shell remains attached to the surface. The keel, with live barnacles, could be fixed upright in a pool with Sheephead fish in it. That could be their only source of food for the duration of the experiment. The number of barnacles could be counted before placing the keel in the pool. The average amount of barnacles on ships should be calculated. The time taken by the number of Sheephead in the pool to crack open the shells should be noted. Based on these data, you could deduce the time required by the number of Sheephead in your lagoon to clean off a ship with an average number of barnacles.
The barnacle shell is glued to the keel and does not come off completely. It breaks and some parts stay on the surface. Only forced scrapping could remove them, by then you also scrape off ship material with it. Therefore, "fish spa" seems like a better and green solution, but not a perfect one.
Yes, a list of species needs to be made and categorized based on the native location of the fish, their prey, and any other parameter that might affect their ability to eat the algae, barnacles, and other related organisms.
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Preventing growth on ships using ultrasound anti-vegetative device

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J. Nikola
J. Nikola Dec 27, 2022
Researching green solutions for vegetative growth prevention on ships (fouling) brought me to ultrasound technology. It's not a new thing, but recently, with progress in energy consumption and distribution, it seems to be getting momentum in the world of boats.
How does it work?
The typical ultrasound anti-vegetative device uses high-frequency, low-power sound waves to stop vegetative growth. The control box sends the signal and transducers, positioned on the inner side of the boat's bottom generate the sound waves. The sound waves create a wall of moving water molecules over the whole surface of the submerged hull, creating a micro-environment that kills algae and prevents barnacle growth.
What are the benefits compared to antifouling paints?
  • much cheaper because it lasts for years
  • not polluting the sea or the environment
  • postponing annual preparation and painting of the boat’s bottom for year or two
Why it "suddenly" work?
I read an article about a local businessman that bought an antifouling device from an American company and it didn't work in the Adriatic sea. He did a research and found ultrasound frequencies that reduced growth of vegetation by 50%. The solution for the software to work is remote customisation and updates - device software needs to be modified to generate sound waves of specific frequency to target specific algae or fouling material; needs to be easy to update and adapt to local environment.

[1]https://oceannavigator.com/innovative-ultrasonic-antifouling-offers-new-way-to-stop-algae-weed-and-barnacle-fouling/

[2]https://www.hullshield.net/how-ultrasonic-antifouling-works/

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarnia month ago
Great solution. So that sonicator would be on as long as the ship is at sea? If you are intending it to be a once in a while maintainance thing, it may not work because once the barnacles are attached, I don't think the sonicator can remove those.
Also, this article suggests that ultrasonication actually kills the algal cells. Is that how the antifouling device works? If so, it may not be a green solution.
Another point to consider is the amount of energy required to keep the sonicator functioning.
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J. Nikola
J. Nikolaa month ago
Shubhankar Kulkarni Thank you for reading the contribution! I read several articles in my language regarding this, so I will answer you from his standpoint. The device is not a sonicator in the sense that it destroys cells, but the frequencies it uses physically disturb algae that are trying to attach and reduce the successful attachment to the ship's bottom. So, it needs to be always on while the ship is in the sea.
What the guy on your link is testing is a device that is being used for years to prevent algae growth (fouling) in pools, lakes, ponds, etc. That exact device uses sonication to kill algae and is definitely not green. It would be dangerous to use it in the sea, where algae naturally grow. However, the device inspired the invention of the ship-specialized ultrasonic device. The main difference is that the device I am mentioning prevents the growth of algae on the surface of the ship's bottom and not a millimetre further. I think it does so by using different frequencies of sound waves. It requires specialists to determine the most suitable position for it to be mounted to give the best results. Even the slightest mistake results in certain ship bottom parts being covered in algae much sooner than expected. That's why I think this is green, but I will check it even deeper to really stand behind this statement.
The energy-related comment is important and is the main selling point of the new device which the Croatian company Underwater Acoustics Ltd is manufacturing, but I don't know the details. They state that the device and spent energy costs are still lower than the annual service, cleaning and painting of the ship's bottom.
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Florin Buda
Florin Budaa month ago
J. Nikola I'm imagining a device like speaker that you atrach to the ship's hull and as it vibrates it make the whole hull to vibrate. It is efective just on a few square meters of hull but you can add more "speakers" to cover the whole hull.
On the other side i can't imagine that this is harmless for the whales and dolphins.
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