Clean ship hulls: Development of a gentle laser cleaning process for underwater use

28.02.2020 - 11:31

Marine fouling on ship hulls is a major problem for the industry. This so-called biofouling increases the flow resistance and thereby the fuel consumption and the emissions. The Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) therefore wants to develop a laser-based cleaning process together with Laserline GmbH and the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Applied Materials Research IFAM to gently and efficiently remove the vegetation without damaging the underlying coating.

In addition to ship hulls, other maritime technical surfaces, such as the foundation structures of offshore wind energy, gas and oil platforms, sheet piling in ports, tidal power plants or aquaculture network cages are also affected by biofouling. In the “FoulLas” research project, the project partners now want to use laser radiation to kill and remove the vegetation underwater in a way that is environmentally friendly and safe on the surface. The paint-based antifouling and corrosion protection systems as well as the material layers themselves should not be damaged.

Laser destroys fouling - current cleans ship

The research partners are developing a process in which the cells are damaged in such a way that, ideally, the water flow washes away the remaining material.

Compared to mechanical cleaning processes, it should be possible to clean ships more efficiently and more gently, and thus to keep the flow resistance low. This would significantly reduce fuel consumption and ultimately emissions. For realistic investigations, the tests are carried out in the south harbor on the island of Helgoland, where Fraunhofer IFAM operates a test bench for growth tests. During the multi-year project period, seasonal influences can also be mapped in the real laboratory.

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