The addition of block copolymers (i.e. oils) is a common technique to enhance the biofouling-resistance properties of poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS)-based fouling-release coatings. These copolymers diffuse from the bulk to the surface of the coating, thus modifying the properties of the surface and providing fouling-resistance properties. Upon release, dissolution or degradation of copolymer molecules at the surface, new molecules can diffuse from the bulk of the coating and cover the surface. Therefore, the long-term performance of these coatings is dependent on the stability and release rate of copolymer molecules from the surface.

A method was developed to quantify the concentration of PDMS-based block copolymers from fouling-release coatings. About 300 experimental coatings exposed to seawater for up to 5.2 years were included in the analysis. The results showed that the loss of copolymer (in % on a weight basis) is significantly higher in warm waters, while the initial copolymer concentration in the coating does not have any effect for copolymer concentrations between 1 and 7 wt%. In short-term exposure, it was found that loss of copolymer was much higher in coatings containing small amounts of an organic biocide (copper pyrithione). Conversely, biocide-containing coatings displayed larger copolymer retention values in long-term experiments. Opposite results were obtained for biocide-free coatings, suggesting that the addition of the organic biocide alters the release profile of copolymers from fouling-release coatings. Finally, the potential of long-term field-studies is discussed, as compared to short-term laboratory experiments usually performed within fouling-release coatings studies.

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Volume 112, November 2017, Pages 101–108