Barnacle fouling is an undesirable deposition of barnacles on surfaces of objects such as ship hulls, oil rigs and engineering structures made from carbon steel that are immersed in seawater. Damages cause by this phenomenon is estimated at USD 4.5 trillion worldwide. Significant expenses are spent on fouling prevention and equipment maintenance, whereas solutions such as antifouling paints involve toxic chemicals that pose risks to marine life and the environment.

NECTEC recently unveiled antifouling innovation called FleXARs at APEC BCG Economy Thailand 2022: Tech to Biz (Thailand Tech Show 2022).  FleXARs is an eco-friendly antifouling film that offers protection against biofouling for ships, oil rigs and engineering structures operating in seawater.

Dr. Nithi Atthi, leader of NECTEC Surface and Microfluidic Device Innovation Research Team, explained the harmful effects of barnacle fouling. Adhesive mucus secreted by barnacles accelerates steel corrosion. In addition, its accumulation on ship hulls adds extra weight to ships and increase water resistance, resulting in more energy consumption and higher carbon emissions. Fouling is of major concern for many industries, but at present there is no solution that offers both high antifouling performance and environmental protection at an affordable price.

In collaboration with Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) in Taiwan and Fraunhofer in Germany, Dr. Nithi’s research team developed FleXARs with superamphiphobic property. A superamphiphobic surface repels both polar liquids, such as water, and nonpolar liquids, thus, in this case, preventing the development of adhesive biofilm on the surface that allows barnacles to attach themselves to.

FleXARs is an alternative to toxic antifouling paints and offers a safer solution to dispatching divers to blast high pressure water to remove barnacle buildup underwater. It is also a preferred choice over an ultrasonic antifouling system which can interfere with the communication of marine mammals.

To create high durability and superamphiphobic property of FleXARs, the research team employed robust microstructure of 500 micron-size particles and polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). FleXARs comes in a 300-m long film roll, allowing it to be applied to a large surface. The film is clear, thin, flexible and self-adhesive for easy installation.

FleXARs have been tested in the sea in Japan and the Gulf of Thailand. It outperformed more expensive Teflon coating after 12 months. The salt spray test - an accelerated corrosion test – showed that FleXARs can last up to 15 years in the sea.

At the price of THB 1,000 per sq. m., FleXARs is cheaper than other antifouling solutions on the market which can cost from THB 2,000 to 6,000 per sq. m.

The superamphiphobic property of FleXARs can also prevent the formation of pathogens on surfaces. Test results showed that FleXARs can inhibit bacterial growth 25% better than Teflon coating. FleXARs is therefore suitable for medical applications, and can be applied to high touch surfaces in the public area to prevent disease transmission.

FleXARs technology is now opened to investors with an interest to establish a startup company. For more information and collaboration, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..