Meredith Silberstein, Assistant Professor, Mills Family Faculty Fellow
Biofouling costs the U.S. Navy approximately $200 million annually; the adhesion of sea organisms to the hull of a naval vessel (termed marine biofouling) drastically increases the drag force on the vessel. The only moderately successful hull coatings to date are broadly toxic and pollute the water. An Office of Naval Research (ONR) grant recently awarded to Meredith Silberstein entitled "Mechanoresponsive Antifouling Polymers Based on Unveiling Functional Cross-links" supports a force responsive hull coating that naturally repels many organisms and will adapt to any organism that succeeds in attaching by becoming inhospitable to that organism. If successful, this stimuli responsive polymer, which is non-toxic, will be used as a top coat for marine vessels, cutting down fuel consumption, increasing top speed, and reducing maintenance requirements. From a broader materials perspective, the polymer design concept of inducing a material property change by mechanically breaking weak reversible cross-links will be useful for formulating options for other adaptive material applications, such as sensing and camouflage, based on mechanical stimuli.