Dynamic surface deformation of silicone elastomers for management of marine biofouling: laboratory and field studies using pneumatic actuation

Many strategies have been developed to improve the fouling release (FR) performance of silicone coatings. However, biofilms inevitably build on these surfaces over time. Previous studies have shown that intentional deformation of silicone elastomers can be employed to detach biofouling species. In this study, inspired by the methods used in soft-robotic systems, controlled deformation of silicone elastomers via pneumatic actuation was employed to detach adherent biofilms. Using programmed surface deformation, it was possible to release > 90% of biofilm from surfaces in both laboratory and field environments. A higher substratum strain was required to remove biofilms accumulated in the field environment as compared with laboratory-grown biofilms. Further, the study indicated that substratum modulus influences the strain needed to de-bond biofilms. Surface deformation-based approaches have potential for use in the management of biofouling in a number of technological areas, including in niche applications where pneumatic actuation of surface deformation is feasible.