Ocean Graduate Excellence Network (OGEN)
Shape the future of the ocean

About the opportunity


Development and Characterization of Novel, Hard Foul-release Coatings for Environmentally-benign Marine Transportation Applications

Principal investigator:
Dr. Kevin Plucknett
Dalhousie University, Department of Mechanical Engineering
NRC Collaborator:
Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS and GIT, Dartmouth, NS

Project description

The shipping industry accounts for roughly 80% of the world’s transported goods, as it is the most economical approach. However, fuel usage accounts for 50-60% of the operational costs during such transportation. As a consequence, it is of both economic and environmental importance to develop approaches to reduce fuel consumption for marine vessels. One approach to achieve this is through applied vessel hull coatings that lower hydrodynamic resistance and, perhaps more importantly, reduce or completely inhibit the occurrence of marine biofouling. However, when introducing such anti-fouling coatings it is also important to ensure they do not negatively impact the marine environment, for example through leeching out of toxic components that may harm marine organisms (which occurs with biocide-containing coatings). The proposed research project will involve close collaboration with GIT in both the development and materials characterisation of a range of novel coatings solutions for the marine environment.

Project requirements

The research programme will require prior experience in materials engineering to Masters level (i.e., a completed or soon-to-be-completed MASc). Preferably, this will include some background in polymeric coatings and their characterisation. This work will involve coating microstructural studies, so experience in utilising a variety of optical and electron microscopy techniques is desirable, along with coating property evaluation, preferably this will include experience in terms of mechanical properties assessment, corrosion testing, and/or tribological assessment methods. Experience and knowledge in marine coatings and antifouling and anticorrosive coatings for the shipping industry would be assets

Additional information

As Canada’s leading graphene protective coatings company, GIT is focused on using graphene to deliver solutions for a wide range of applications, including marine transportation. GIT’s smart coatings technologies aim to tackle and solve complex issues by being part of the solution, with the end goal of solving the environmental crisis and saving money for the shipping industry.

The project consists of a comparative assessment between the new environmentally  friendly coatings that will be developed by GIT and a benchmark marine coating – such  as anti-fouling biocide-based, copolymer auto polishing, or foul release marine coatings.  Graphene-based coatings have demonstrated potential to be a suitable eco-friendly  alternative to protect ship hulls against corrosion and biofouling. The significance of this  project is to demonstrate the ability of graphene-based coatings versus traditional marine coatings to reduce marine industry emissions while minimizing harm to marine  life.  

The development will include the synthesis of green chemistry formulations that will  have surface characteristics that are repulsive to ocean micro-organisms and develop  an “easy to clean effect,” other than being ultra-low drag surfaces so the ships will  consume less fuel. Factors such as biofouling growth, adhesion of fouling organisms,  types of fouling in each environmental, operational, and environmental impacts, coating  adhesion performance, effect of surface characteristics on shipping fuel efficiency,  effect of VOC/GHG emissions on a global scale.

The project will consider marine  coatings in its five stages, as follows: production of coating, application of coating,  operation of the ship with coating, maintenance of the ship (hull cleaning and recoating  if necessary), end of life and disposal.

This joint research program runs in the Halifax-Dartmouth technological park for 3 years.