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March 2016 Issue

Nanotechnology for Savings, Sustainability in Marine Industry
Francesca Crolley
The science of nanotechnology has been evolving for more than 40 years, ever since the term was first coined by Tokyo Science University Professor Norio Taniguchi in 1974 to describe the manipulation of materials at the atomic-scale. The biggest advancements for industry have been achieved in the past 10 to 12 years, as manufacturers have come to understand how to use nanotechnology-based materials to create products with unique attributes never before seen and that can help to reduce carbon emissions, lower energy consumption and increase sustainability. The area of paints and coatings has been one that has been particularly successful, and one of the first to market.

Imagine if the corrosion-prevention coating that is used on steam piping on ships could also provide energy-saving insulation. All you would have to do is coat the piping as usual for anti-corrosion, and the piping would also be insulated at the same time—no messy fibrous insulation or cladding to deal with. This type of nanocoating does exist and is one that industrial manufacturers have already been using to insulate steam pipes, tanks and manufacturing equipment in their factories for over a decade. It is now just being introduced into the marine industry, with success in insulating fuel oil systems to lower fuel costs by approximately 30 percent, just from coating tanks and piping.

Some key existing and in-development products of nanotechnology that can also be of significant interest to the marine industry, in addition to thermal barrier and anti-corrosion coatings, are coatings that provide resistance to mold and mildew growth, coatings that can be used to reduce barnacle build up, coatings that self repair when there is damage, and products that can be used to make fabrics and other surfaces anti-microbial and water repellent, just to name a few.

Vessel management is an area where nanotechnology could provide the best benefit for current and future sustainability and cost savings in the maritime industry. A product that can do the most for vessel management is thermal barrier coatings that also prevent corrosion and are mold/mildew resistant. The technology, created and patented by Industrial Nanotech, Inc., has been on the market since 2004, and the company has been making regular upgrades to it since that time as the resin technology has evolved. The High Heat thermal barrier coating was recently trialed on the heavy fuel oil system of a 3,725-TEU container vessel, resulting in 30 percent lowered fuel costs, reducing diesel use by 360 liters per 24 hr., with a payback achieved in 95 days of sailing. The technology lasts about five to 10 years, depending upon environment. In addition to energy savings, thermal barrier coatings can reduce surface temperatures for safe touch. Another huge plus about this type of insulation technology is that it’s hydrophobic (water repellent) nature is perfectly suited to marine environments, standing up very well to salt air and moisture, which typically degrade traditional types of insulation.

Other interesting nanocoatings for marine vessels include one that provides anti-fouling, called Nano Foul Release by Alex Milne Associates, which can last up to 10 years in saltwater and up to 20 years in freshwater, as well as products designed for slip resistance for safety, and coatings that extend UV and weathering resistance, lengthening the time before a ship exterior has to be repainted. Thermal barrier technology is also moving past coatings to easy-to-work-with solid materials that are flexible enough to use, remove and reuse as needed over a wide variety of surfaces, with the same multiple protective properties.

Many of the same types of protective coatings that are used on vessels can also protect port infrastructure. Examples include an application by the U.S. Navy on metal dock buildings to insulate and protect them from corrosion, and an application in Puerto Rico to reduce the chance of burn injuries from the sun heating handrails along the dock. The technology provided a solution both for corrosion and keeping the metal handrails cooler.

Other interesting products for port and harbor infrastructure include anti-graffiti nanocoatings, and coatings used for buildings and painted on walls, ductwork and roofs to increase sustainability, energy savings or remediate lead-contaminated surfaces. For example, the Tampa Port Authority in Florida coated skylights with this type of product to reduce UV penetration and heat transfer, while still allowing through approximately 92 percent of the visible light.

In the case of homeland security uses for nanotechnology, while this area of nanotechnology tends to stay more under wraps than the other commercial uses, there is some significant research and development being done that could provide huge benefits for security. One is stealth coatings, which are meant to hide a thermal signature of the object to which it is applied, and another, closely related, is camouflage-type nanocoatings to reduce visibility of ships and aircraft.

While nanotechnology may have been around since the last century, it’s more recently that the potential is being unlocked with huge benefits for many industries, and with many exciting advancements still to come. For the marine industry, it is important to explore how to use nanotechnology to improve sustainability and the bottom line. Cost savings, energy savings and sustainability naturally go hand in hand, and nanotechnology can become an important piece of that equation—one that the marine industry is just beginning to discover.

Francesca Crolley is vice president of business development for Industrial Nanotech, Inc. She has authored articles on energy savings, nanotechnology and sustainability, which have appeared in such magazines as Facility Management, Dairy Foods Magazine, Sustainable Plant, Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings, and Asia Pacific Coatings Journal, among others.


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Sea Technology is read worldwide in more than 110 countries by management, engineers, scientists and technical personnel working in industry, government and educational research institutions. Readers are involved with oceanographic research, fisheries management, offshore oil and gas exploration and production, undersea defense including antisubmarine warfare, ocean mining and commercial diving.