MERIC studies biofouling to advance marine renewables

Biofouling on submerged structures (Photo: Coastal Marine Research Station)

Researchers at the Marine Energy Research and Innovation Center (MERIC) of Chile are conducting a biofouling study with the aim of developing an anti-fouling solution that would accelerate the development of marine renewable energy sector in the country.

The scientists are conducting various tests as part of the study at the Coastal Marine Research Station in Las Cruces, part of the first laboratory in Chile for the interdisciplinary study of biofouling and bio-corrosion, created by MERIC with the support of Corfo.

Biofouling is the colonization of marine organisms, algae and animals that cause problems for marine structures, both those on the surface, and submerged and anchored to the seabed, explained Sergio Navarrete, the researcher in charge of the study.

At the Coastal Marine Research Station, the researchers are conducting tests on a Chilean hydrozoan species that could be useful to prevent the settlement of other more harmful organisms on the marine structures which could hinder the operation of moving equipment and parts.

Also, MERIC scientists are testing commonly used paints to combat biofouling as well as different materials at different depths.

Navarrete said: “The idea of the study is to find ways to coexist with biofouling and make an operation and industry economically and environmentally viable. The solutions are always specific to the region of the world and the type of application.

“Several laboratories in Chile are working on identifying natural substances with anti-fouling properties and we hope they will soon advance to a state of development that allows testing in our natural laboratory.”

The next challenge is to develop biomimetic solutions that imitate the properties of native natural organisms to combat biofouling and to be able to act in a lasting way, minimizing environmental impacts.

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