Enzymes in Antifouling
The word fouling refers to the accumulation of undesirable materials on solid surfaces. This accumulation alters the main functions of solid surface. Biofouling, which is the undesired accumulation of micro-organisms on a solid surface or a structure, is often accompanied by microbiologically influenced corrosion that is abbreviated as MIC (Kim, 2015). For example, Bacteria have the ability to form biofilms; the ability has the same mechanism which is employed in fouling or slimes. Generally, the organisms in question are able to aggregate on various surfaces with the help of colloidal hydrogels of water, together with the extracellular polymeric substances. These could be polysaccharides; the structure eventually ends up being very complex. There is aerobic (which takes place in the presence of oxygen) and anaerobic fouling (which does not require oxygen at all) in leads to more corruption due to the deposition of sulfide. All the existing forms of fouling require steady supply of nutrients. Fouling is very common in sea vessels, sea and terrestrial structures. The current paper looks deeper into antifouling. The specific aspects that will be looked into include explanation of the topic, as well as the mechanism of antifouling. Previous and current mechanisms used for the process of antifouling will be discussed, together with the prospect of using enzyme for antifouling. Factors, such as the mechanism of using these enzymes, their advantages and disadvantages will be looked into. In addition to the above mentioned aspects, the suggestions and areas of improvement, needed to produce viable and economically and environmentally sustainable enzymes, will be discussed.
Traditionally, biocides have been used for antifouling; they are applied on surfaces of sea vessels and other types of sea transport. Among the most common of these are copper based compounds, such as cuprous oxide, which are well known due to their antifungal effects. Zinc Pyrithione has also been applied as a co-biocide (Amatyjaszewski, Sumerlin & Tsarevsky, 2012). Still, nonmetallic and organic compounds, such as Tributyltin (TBT), have also been used for the same purpose. The chemicals that are used for antifouling were incorporated in paints that were applied in coats on the surfaces of sea vessels in areas that would be below water. In 2008, TBT was banned for use as an antifouling agent due to environmental concerns. This was followed by a ban on copper based compounds (Kim, 2015).
As a result, the use of enzymes is being pursued, since these compounds are more specific, making it easy to regulate their effects on the environment. A group of enzymes is mixed together to act on diverse organism that may develop on the surfaces of sea vessels. These enzymes must possess the ability to be combined with xylene, which is a common organic solvent used for ship paints. Some researchers have developed what they have referred to as CLEAs (cross-linked enzyme aggregates), which can combine with xylene without being inactivated (Amatyjaszewski, Sumerlin & Tsarevsky, 2012). Other researchers are incorporating a system that produces hydrogen peroxide used for coating the sea vessels. This is because hydrogen peroxide is effective in preventing and halting growth of organisms on surfaces. It is easily denatured in the environment and poses great threats of degrading the environment. There are also a number of other enzymes, such as proteases, among others, that are being pursued.
The goal is to combine these enzymes with a paint used for coating sea vessels or other structures that are to be protected from bio fouling (Amatyjaszewski, Sumerlin & Tsarevsky, 2012). The paint, as well as the organic solvent used, should not denature these enzymes. When the coat is applied, as the upper surface of the coat is continuously eroded by friction in sea vessels and by weathering in stationery vessels and structures, other enzyme molecules are exposed to the surface to continue inhabiting the growth of microorganisms. The coating is to be replaced after a given period of time.
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Advantages of Using Enzymes to Prevent Fouling
The greatest advantage of using enzymes is that they are species-specific, meaning that they will be used to target specific organisms that cause fouling and not any other organism that comes into contact with them. Moreover, enzymes do not persist for a long time in the environment, which means that they cause less pollution (Kim, 2015). This is in a sharp contrast with metal based biocides, which can persist in the environment for long and lead to bioaccumulation. Other organic polymers, such as TBT, are nonspecific, destroy many organisms and persist in the environment for a long time. Another important advantage of enzymes, especially in marine environment, is that their activity increases with hydration of used coatings. This is, however, not the case with biocides. Lastly, enzymes are only catalysts for biological processes; for this reason, only a very small amount of them is actually needed to accomplish the goal (Kim, 2015).
Disadvantages of Using Enzymes to Prevent Fouling
The main disadvantage of using enzymes is that most are very species specific. This means that a large number of them will need to be combined with a certain species to accomplish the required task. The other disadvantage is that few of them can be combined with organic solvents, such as xylene used in paints and coating materials. Thirdly, enzymes are inactivated at low temperatures, meaning that they may not offer any significant protection in low temperatures. Enzymes are also denatured in high temperatures, meaning that the level of their protection in tropical waters may be reduced. On the one hand, it is very important to note that ocean temperatures in tropics vary very slightly; for this reason, it is very unlikely that sea or ocean temperatures will rise to a point of destroying these enzymes. On the other hand, nearly freezing temperatures are common in some ocean waters, which can reduce the efficacy of enzymes.
Improvements and Suggestions
The use of enzymes for antifouling is still potent and many options can be explored to offer a solution in future. An enzyme, such as hydrogen peroxide, is effective in many species and can offer a viable solution to the issue of having to combine many enzymes (Amatyjaszewski, Sumerlin & Tsarevsky, 2012). However, crosslinking of enzymes is important, as it helps to improve their stability in organic solvents. For this reason, using CLEAs technology makes it possible for many enzymes to be used together, as well as increases their stability. There is also a need to get alternative solvents for coatings, as the hydrocarbon ones, such as xylene, can also persist in the environment.
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Antifouling enzymes can play a significant role in protecting marine vessels and structures from organisms that grow on their surfaces. This is because fouling has been known geographical and manmade features over time. Fouling increases the friction between sea water and the surface of vessels, which increase costs. Fouling may even erode these vessels (Kim, 2015). Previous antifouling agents have may environmental concerns, as seen earlier. They may lead to indiscriminate destruction of sea life, persist in marine environment and cause bioaccumulation. Use of enzymes is very promising to marine technology and may eliminate the disadvantage of antifouling agents used today. Enzymes can prevent or halt the growth of fouling organisms and, hence, prevent them from adhering to vessels and other structures. Even though there have been significant strides, the designs for entirely environmentally friendly, economically viable, stable antifoliating enzymes are yet to be discovered.