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Transportation Science Technology

Synthetic Sebum Makes Slippery Sailboats 128

Posted by timothy
from the so-say-we-all dept.
sonnejw0 writes "Sea-faring vessels are a major contributor of greenhouse gas production due to a deficit in international laws and inherent inefficiencies at sea, such as barnacle build-up on hulls. Many marine animals avoid the build-up of drag-inducing barnacles through secreting oily residues from their pores or through the nano-molecular arrangement of their skin. Sailors regularly defoul their hulls, removing the barnacles at dry-dock, which requires them to reduce the amount of time they have at sea. Some synthetic chemicals in paints have been used to prevent barnacle build-up but have been found to be toxic to marine animals and thus outlawed by several nations. Now, engineers are trying to replicate the skin of marine animals to produce a slippery hull to which marine bacteria cannot attach, saving fuel costs and improving speeds."
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Synthetic Sebum Makes Slippery Sailboats

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:17AM (#29580049)

    I would have been the "first post", but, well there were too many potential jokes.
    I really like "Sailors regularly defoul their hulls", but then there's the "Sebum"/"Semen" play on words which is always popular.
    "dry-dock" change some letters...
    oh my goodness I just can't decide, so I've lost my first post chance.
    So I guess I'll just RTFA and ponder how OpenBSD would help with this problem without even making a "soviet russia" or "natalie portman" reference

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:20AM (#29580083)

    Anybody care to calculate exactly how many orders of magnitude greenhouse gasses from seagoing vessels are below automobile emissions?

    Yes, every little bit helps, but the driving force behind keeping ships barnacle-free without drydocking sure as shit isn't to ameliorate global warming. Better efficiency and being able to be at sea more is why this is being looked at - NOT greenhouse gas reductions. So why the hell is a third- or tenth-order minor benefit listed described as the prime reason behind this research?

    Geez.

  • by oldspewey (1303305) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:47AM (#29580501)
    Sunlight is said to help ... so hop to it, the basement stairs are right there at the end of the room.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:48AM (#29580517) Journal
    Probably because only shipping-industry related people care about defouling costs and drydock days per 100 shipping days and whatnot, while "green" is the theme of the week and will garner press?

    I'm sure that the writeup of the same research in whatever the trade rag for shipping/shipbuilding is is talking all about the possible efficiency benefits over conventional antifouling paint; but that is kind of a niche interest. It's pretty much like any other industry/niche specific tech work. If you are writing for the inside audience, you go over the salient benefits first. If you are writing for the peanut gallery at large, you focus on whatever is simple and has public attention at the time.

    (Also, parenthetically, it is worth noting that, when trying to optimize something like fuel consumption or emissions, you don't go for the largest source first, you go for the cheapest source first and work progressively up to more expensive sources until you hit whatever the target or break-even point is.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:10AM (#29580791)

    So why the hell is a third- or tenth-order minor benefit listed described as the prime reason behind this research?

    If you can make ships more efficient in the water, making ships that run on renewable sources becomes more possible. Steam- and diesel-powered vessels were invented to improve speed (and capacity) in the water. The more you can improve the efficiency, the more speed you can get out of less and less energy. Which makes things like wind power (sails) or solar power (electricity) more and more of a possibility.

    True, but that's still a second-order benefit at best because shipowners ALREADY wanted more efficient ships long before any environmental concerns ever arose because such ships have always been cheaper to run.

    Look at the changes in ships between 1850 and 1950. Do you really think environmental concerns drove those changes? Do you really think the owners of Liberian-flagged and Filipino-and-others-crewed vessels really care one whit about the environment? Yet even those ships have become more efficient and therefore more environment-friendly over the decades.

    And that's only because when large ocean-going vessels are involved, the profit motive aligns pretty nicely with environmental concerns.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:25AM (#29580995)

    Wouldn't that save more fuel in something other than a *sail*-boat?!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:22PM (#29581763)

    Last I heard, the pollution generated by 8 supercargo ships was equivalent to the total released by every road vehicle in America. That is quite significant.

    I don't really care about global warming that much (ok, I do, but its not my primary motivation for my energy policy beliefs). The climate will change, one way or the other regardless of what we do. We are in a warm period of an ice age, sooner or later that ice age will end, it may also return to global glaciation at some point before that.

    WHAT? EIGHT ships? Eight?

    Are you kidding?

    Somebody yanked your chain good and yanked it good.

    And you apparently didn't even think about it.

    If you put 2 20,000 HP diesels in those 8 ships - that's 16 diesel engines. Hell, put four in each vessel - that'd be 32 diesel engins. Just have them spewing raw exhaust into the atmosphere, you'd match what? A few hundred 18-wheeler trucks?

  • by PPalmgren (1009823) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @01:43PM (#29583013)
    That vessel, the Emma Maersk and her sisters, save 1200 metric tons of fuel a year with environmentally friendly silicone paint used up to the high water line. 1200mt * $300/mt = $360,000 * 8 ships = 2.88 million a year. The fuel savings is a little over 1% of yearly operation. 1% is serious business. It is in their best interest to chase fuel efficiency, and they do so with millions in R&D.

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