Light used to protect ships and the marine environment

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The Hon Christopher Pyne MP

Minister for Defence Industry

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30 May 2018

Light could hold the key to reducing operational costs for Defence and protect ships and the environment from marine pest invaders.

Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP, today announced Defence Science and Technology (DST) and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) are researching a novel approach of using ultra-violet (UV) light to protect particular sensitive areas on a ship’s hull from biofouling.

Biofouling is the accumulation of marine life on a ship’s hull.

“I welcome this collaboration to combat what is a major problem for the Royal Australian Navy and commercial shipping,” Minister Pyne said. 

“Biofouling increases drag, can block water inlets and degrade sensors, and adds significantly to operational costs. It can also lead to the introduction of marine pests into new areas.”

Many different anti-biofouling technologies are used but most are designed for temperate climates and do not perform well in Australia’s tropical waters. Some can pollute the environment or have limited effect when the ship is stationary.

The five-year research project is aimed at experimenting with a number of advanced biofouling technologies including the use of UV light.

One aim is to develop a camera housing that emits UV light from the surface. Researchers have found colonising organisms absorb UV light and are unable to replicate.

A team of Defence and AIMS scientists are now testing the technology in tropical waters at the AIMS research station near Townsville.

Minister Pyne said initial results show the test surfaces are free from fouling for prolonged periods, regardless of location or circumstances.

“The results look promising and will have wide ranging benefits for Defence, commercial shipping and the environment,” Minister Pyne said

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