Dolphin-inspired coating reduces ship drag

November 12, 2008: A new paint for ship hulls developed by a Japanese company helps reduce drag and improve fuel efficiency by ~4%, according to the Nikkei Business Daily.

Currently available paint for ship hulls can reduce surface irregularities to ~150μm, which lowers a vessel’s resistance as it moves through water and thus improves fuel efficiency, the paper explains. Nippon Paint Marine says its new paint lowers that irregularity mark to 100μm, which lowers drag resistance by 8%. A proprietary compound turns into a gel when it comes in contact with water; gels tend to accumulate in indentations, which smoothes out the surface.

The paper notes that the company drew inspiration for the new material design from dolphins and tuna, which utilize a mucous layer coating on their bodies to swim with lower drag.

The new paint will cost 3× as much as normal marine paint, but the company says that for a 95-kiloton ship, ROI from fuel savings can be achieved in just one year (based on five-year use calculations). The company projects sales of ¥3B (US $30.7M) in fiscal 2010.


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