Sea Technology

DEC 2018

The industry's recognized authority for design, engineering and application of equipment and services in the global ocean community

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Page 24 of 52

24 ST | December 2018 S hips that sail the seas foul to slime. What do we know about this universal biofouling problem, and what are we doing about it? As fouling control coatings researchers at AkzoNobel, we are interested to know about the drag consequences of biofilms (slime) on ships. But it is important to note that the marine industry is not alone in facing a biofilm challenge. Surgeons worry that biofilms on implanted medical devices will introduce pathogens to patients, or that bio- films in chronic wounds will lead to reinfection. Biofilms in dairy plants can result in food spoilage. Accumulated biofilms in power plant cooling towers can drastically re- duce heat exchange. Biofilms can reduce the cross-sec- tional area of pipes, making drinking water transport in- efficient or blocking fuel lines. Dental biofilms can lead to painful tooth decay. Biofilms are even a problem in space, where they might act as hotbeds of microbially induced corrosion on long-term installations, such as the International Space Station. As researchers, we look for solutions by examining similar problems that exist across fields. Understanding biofilms in a holistic way helps us find a solution for the issue of bio- films in the marine industry. Community and Composition Whether marine, clinical, in- dustrial or extraterrestrial, biofilms are characterized by properties that give them superpowers of per- sistence, which are especially vex- ing in industrial contexts. A biofilm is made of living micro-organisms embedded in an extracellular poly- meric matrix, which some or all of the cells produce, and typically is adhered to an immersed surface. Delving Deeper into Biofilms Understanding Biofilms to Develop Industry Solutions By Jennifer Longyear • Marie Dale (Top) Ship slime is a smart microbial lifestyle: Microalgae and bacteria produce an extracellular matrix that provides the micro-organisms with adhesion to the surface, cohesion within the biofilm and protection from mechanical and chemical disruption. (Bottom) Environmental scanning electron microscopy reveals the often beautiful mor- phological detail of diatoms, single-celled microalgae that are typically major constitu- ents of marine fouling biofilms.

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