Andrew Mount, an associate professor at Clemson University and director of the Okeanos Research Laboratory, recently earned a patent for a coating that deters marine larvae from building up on underwater surfaces. The Consortium provided funding for many of Mount’s oyster studies, and he has been researching the cellular and molecular biology of marine organisms from a materials perspective for two decades.
Mount identified the cellular process oysters use to build and repair shells, which involves specialized blood cells capturing ingredients from ocean water and synthesizing calcium carbonate crystals. The principles of cellular adhesion, and how to stop it, led to research on prevention of biofouling on boats and structures left in salt water for long periods.
Mount is currently working with a marine coating business to test a new paint, which would be an environment-friendly alternative to common anti-biofouling products made with copper. The paint could be used on pleasure yachts, boats, dock pilings, buoys, and anything submerged in salt water.
Buoy heavily encrusted with barnacles, an example of biofouling. Image courtesy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.