Research Article

Preventing mussel adhesion using lubricant-infused materials

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Science  18 Aug 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6352, pp. 668-673
DOI: 10.1126/science.aai8977

When you don't want things to stick

During marine fouling, surfaces are encrusted with scale or biological organisms, which can be expensive to remove. Amini et al. used polymers infused with organic lubricants to prevent mussels from adhering to a submerged surface. The infused polymer presents a relatively soft surface to the mussel. This means that when the mussel probes the surface with its feet, it is less likely to release adhesive threads, which reduces its adhesion. The antifouling properties of the treatment were observed in both a laboratory setting and field testing.

Science, this issue p. 668


Mussels are opportunistic macrofouling organisms that can attach to most immersed solid surfaces, leading to serious economic and ecological consequences for the maritime and aquaculture industries. We demonstrate that lubricant-infused coatings exhibit very low preferential mussel attachment and ultralow adhesive strengths under both controlled laboratory conditions and in marine field studies. Detailed investigations across multiple length scales—from the molecular-scale characterization of deposited adhesive proteins to nanoscale contact mechanics to macroscale live observations—suggest that lubricant infusion considerably reduces fouling by deceiving the mechanosensing ability of mussels, deterring secretion of adhesive threads, and decreasing the molecular work of adhesion. Our study demonstrates that lubricant infusion represents an effective strategy to mitigate marine biofouling and provides insights into the physical mechanisms underlying adhesion prevention.

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