Nanotechnology Initiatives in the Marine Industry

The marine industry is benefiting from various technological developments led by advances in nanoscale science and development. Nanotechnology permeates most of the world’s economy today, and it is widely used by one of the oldest capillary systems for the globalized flow of goods – the global network of ports, ships and shipping lanes in the maritime industry.

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Nanotechnology has found applications in nearly every industry today, leaving its mark on electronic devices, sensors, new materials, composites, and surface treatments.

The transport as a whole has benefited from nano-filters, anti-glare coatings, carbon black for tires, GMR sensors or magnetometers, fuel additives, dirt protection, hydrogen electrocatalysts and many other advances in nanotechnology.

The maritime industry, responsible for much of the world’s transport of goods, materials, and people, has embraced nanotechnology solutions to long-standing challenges as well as to the most pressing contemporary concerns.

Measuring potential marine applications of nanotechnology

Recently, prominent European scientists led by researchers from the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory (INL) embarked on a two-year study on marine applications of nanotechnology. The “KETmaritime” project was supported by a €1 million grant from the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Researchers have identified humidity and salinity as the cause of about 30% of all ship failures, repair needs, and equipment modifications in the marine industry. Corrosion and biofouling caused by these factors adversely affect the durability and performance of ship materials.

This is a long-standing difficulty for the marine industry. Traditionally, protective coatings and paints have been used to slow the decomposition process, but new solutions based on nanotechnology are becoming more popular than ever.

Nanostructured coatings, for example, contain nanoparticles that target and prevent chemical reactions that corrode ships at their first sign. These coatings act on the scale of individual atoms and can greatly improve the durability of shipbuilding materials.

The KETmaritime project has also improved the sensors’ ability to withstand the effects of biofouling.

A study attached to the project, coordinated by Spain’s IDONIAL technology center, found that several products are in development by several companies using nanotechnology solutions to deal with corrosion and biofouling. These included nano-additives such as nano-ZnO, nano-alumina, and nanosilica.

The IDONIAL team said there are many potential applications for nanotechnology in the marine industry. They noted that sustainable shipbuilding, fuel economy, and marine renewable energy generation could all benefit from new nanotechnology approaches.

Nanotechnology responses to the challenges facing the marine industry

The maritime industry, one of the first large industries in the globalized world and a poetic system so critical to our modern economy, faces new challenges such as the threat of climate change, the imperative of decarbonization, and better use of industrial digital technologies – as well as old as rust. Many of these are met with answers based on nanotechnology.

Environmental concerns and regulations

The international maritime industry is currently adapting to a new set of environmental regulations that have been introduced in the past few years in response to the growing consensus and concern about the climate emergency the planet is facing.

In April 2018, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which oversees the global marine industry, announced a new strategy to reduce industry greenhouse gas emissions to 50% of 2008 levels by 2050.

The IMO has also embarked on a program to reduce sulfur emissions from shipping by 80%, which began in 2020. A new low-sulfur fuel cap has been introduced to achieve this.

Nanotechnology-based solutions are well positioned to help the maritime industry achieve these new goals in a cost-effective and transparent manner.

On-board sensors, remote sensing, Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity, and computing technologies – based on nanotechnology’s contributions to electronics, sensors, and circuit boards – are all essential to environmental monitoring that should make the industry compliant. Objectives.

Fuel additives that use nanoparticles can help improve fuel efficiency while reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Hydrogen is also used by nanotechnology in developing electrocatalysts that convert water into fuel and are seen by some as an important part of the charge transition away from fossil fuels.

Best use of new technologies

Nanotechnology is arguably behind all the enabling technologies driving the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0. This is the movement towards integrating smart sensors, connected devices, and automated control using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).

The sensors, transistors, computer chips, and receivers that make all this technology work use nanoscale devices and materials to function, manipulating the strange workings of matter at the smallest possible quantum scale of reactive size.

This nanotechnology provides a wealth of new industrial processes and methods—with big data analysis and computational assistance in the study of large and complex systems—even guiding marine industry decisions about how to use them.

The prize for successful adoption of this new technology is more efficient operations, less use of energy and resources, and greater resilience in meeting the challenges ahead.

Continue reading: The future of removing microplastics from water using nanotubes.

References and additional reading

Jiang, Y.L., XR. Liang, S.Y. Wu (2011). Nanotechnology applications in ship protection. Materials Science Forum. Available at:

Matthew, J., J. Joy, and SC George (2019). Potential applications of nanotechnology in transport: a review. King Saud’s university magazine. Available at:

Marine nanotechnology applications investigate corrosion and biofouling repair. (2019) International Institute of Marine Survey. Available at:

Nordqvist, C (2020). The 3 biggest challenges facing the marine industry. Business market news. Available at:

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are those of the author expressed in his personal capacity and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Limited T/A AZoNetwork is the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the terms and conditions of use of this website.


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