Stress-localized durable anti-biofouling surfaces
Growing demands for bio-friendly antifouling surfaces have stimulated the development of new and ever-improving material paradigms. Despite notable progress in bio-friendly coatings, the biofouling problem remains a critical challenge. In addition to biofouling characteristics, mechanically stressed surfaces such as ship hulls, piping systems, and heat exchangers require long-term durability in marine environments. Here, we introduce a new generation of anti-biofouling coatings with superior characteristics and high mechanical, chemical and environmental durability. In these surfaces, we have implemented the new physics of stress localization to minimize the adhesion of bio-species on the coatings. This polymeric material contains dispersed organogels in a high shear modulus matrix. Interfacial cavitation induced at the interface of bio-species and organogel particles leads to stress localization and detachment of bio-species from these surfaces with minimal shear stress. In a comprehensive study, the performance of these surfaces is assessed for both soft and hard biofouling including Ulva, bacteria, diatoms, barnacles and mussels, and is compared with that of state-of-the-art surfaces. These surfaces show Ulva accumulation of less than 1%, minimal bacterial biofilm growth, diatom attachment of 2%, barnacle adhesion of 0.02 MPa and mussel adhesion of 7.5 N. These surfaces promise a new physics-based route to address the biofouling problem and avoid adverse effects of biofouling on the environment and relevant technologies.