Barnacles, oysters, algae, and other sea-life can slow a ship by 10% and increase fuel consumption by as much as 40%. The U.S. Office of Naval Research is testing a Roomba-like autonomous hull-cleaning robot to cut the drag.
The robot incorporates the use of a biofilm detector that utilizes modified fluorometer technology to enable the robot to detect the difference between the clean and unclean surfaces on the hull of a ship. Used to groom ships in port, the Hull BUG [Bio-inspired Underwater Grooming tool] removes the marine biofilm and other marine organisms before they get solidly attached. This is especially important because Navy ships spend more than 50 percent of their service life in port, giving barnacles and marine life ample time to become settled and, if allowed, to further colonize and grow on the ship’s hull.
Underscoring the benefits of combining the Hull BUG with newly developed environmentally benign antifouling hull coatings, [ONR Program Officer Steve] McElvany estimates that “the Navy will save millions of dollars per year in fuel. Using less fuel also means less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”
[Photo: U.S. Navy]