Biofouling is the accumulation of microorganismsplantsalgae, or animals on wetted surfaces. The mechanism of fouling involves initial bacterial attachment and formation of a biofilm on the surface, followed by the attachment of larger marine organisms.  Biofouling affects a range of systems and parts over many industries, from piping and cooling towers to power plants and other instruments exposed to water. Overall, the cost to industry has been estimated to be at least $200 billion per year in the United States alone.

In the marine environment, biofouling affects optical sensors used in water quality, non-optical sensors used for conductivity measurements, acoustic sensors (sonar) for ocean current measurement, and underwater cameras, lighting, and lenses used for optical communication. In ocean monitoring, biofouling has long been considered a limiting factor to the length of deployment of instruments/sensors under water. For example, the Alliance for Coastal Technologies has estimated that maintenance costs due to biofouling consumes 50% of operational budgets.

There are several methods of antifouling (or biofouling control) that have traditionally been used with limited success. Biocides such as Tributyltin (TBT) have been used frequently due to their high level of effectiveness, but they have been eliminated in recent years due to environmental regulations. Mechanical wipers work, but have a higher failure rate and a custom wiper is required for each surface. Using copper to avoid growth works in marine environments, but is not as effective in freshwater. Many companies are, therefore, seeking alternative solutions for biofouling due to environmental concerns and the relative ineffectiveness of these various traditional methods.

Crystal IS UVC LEDs offer several advantages in preventing biofilm formation and controlling biofouling.
  • Non-toxic solution for disinfection
  • Able to work on any shape surface
  • Low power consumption and small footprint compared to mercury lamps
  • Long lifetime to enable extended deployments

Learn more about UVC LEDs for biofouling prevention.