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Author: Jennifer Forman Orth

Invading your brain since 2002.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Fair Is Foul, And Fouling Is Unfair  

ABC News Australia has a report about an interesting new innovation in the world of anti-fouling mechanisms (you didn't think there was an entire world devoted to such things, did you!). "Fouling" refers to the process of organisms attaching to and accumulating on a surface, such as the hull of a ship, and can be a major vector for introducing marine and freshwater aquatic organisms into new environments.

An Australian scientist from the Defence Science and Technology Organisation of Australia has been studying the way that mollusks keep other organisms from settling on the outside of their shells to get inspiration for new anti-fouling technologies. He found that the surfaces of mollusk shells can be defined by a variety of fine microstructures that appear to have evolved to make it harder for organisms like algae and barnacles to grab hold. Some mollusks also release an antibacterial agent to keep bacteria from filling in the gaps in their textured surfaces, further preventing other organisms from settling there. He hopes to use his research to develop more effective (and less toxic) anti-fouling surfaces for the hulls of ships. The current norm in anti-fouling technology is to paint the hull of the ship with a compound that releases copper or other chemicals toxic to marine invertebrates, though less toxic alternatives are also available.

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