11 June 2010

U.S. Navy to Attack the Barnacle

The small Gothenburg company I-Tech received a visit from U.S. Naval Officials in search of alternatives to copper-based antifouling paint. The American sailors were enthusiastically impressed by Selektope, which forces barnacle larvae to release and escape from the painted hull. If all goes according to plan the entire U.S. fleet of 300 ships will be painted with I-Tech's paint in the future.

A lot is happening at a furious pace at I-Tech, the small research company is in the process of developing an environmentally friendly antifouling paint based on research results from Mistra funded Marine Paint.  I-Tech's work has gone from the research stage to an exciting commercial enterprise in record breaking time.  An important step in this direction is to determine a brand name for the use of medetomidine, the active ingredient in the environmentally friendly antifouling paint.

“Firstly, medetomidine is a word that no one can even pronounce. In addition, we want to distinguish the brand from the pharmaceutical use. Following discussions within the company and with our customers the choice was Selektope," says Lena Lindblad, research director at In-Tech.

The idea is to trademark Selektope as both a brand name and as a mark of quality found in all paint cans containing medetomidine. The name Selektope is derived the words “selective” and “octopamine”. This is because the biological activity is based on Selektope selectively binding to the barnacle larva’s octopamine receptors, resulting in the larval legs becoming hyperactive and therefore unable to remain attached to the hull.  The spelling with a “k” in Selektope marks the Scandinavian origin.

“We think Selektope will become for the paint industry what Gore Tex is for the textile industry," says Lena Lindblad.

Starts New Product Development
Medetomidine, or Selektope, has great potential to replace copper in antifouling paint. Selektope is expected to be approved by the Chemical Agency in the UK sometime in 2011. After that it is a green light to begin the full scale launch.
But there is by no means a normal launch in the works. There is something much more dynamic on the way: that is a completely revolutionary technology within the paint industry. This insight comes from  I-Tech four employees.

“This is a process that is full steam ahead. Today, almost all paint is based on copper. Removing copper opens the potential for an entirely new product development throughout the paint industry. As a result, you will no longer need to adjust the color to the copper content of up to half the weight of the product," says Lena Lindblad.

The U.S. Navy evaluates Selektope
I-Tech has established product development procedures with almost all major paint companies to produce paints containing Selektope. The work is becoming more business-oriented and there are tests with Selektope throughout the world.  Of serious note is the cooperation with the U.S. Navy.

“Yes, we are collaborating with the U.S. Navy. They are actively looking for new technologies around the world. The U.S. Navy currently experiences problems with antifouling paints containing copper. In some states the copper levels in the seaports are higher than what environment protection law allows. Therefore, there is a development effort in place in order to find alternatives to copper. Selektope is currently one of the new technologies that the U.S. Navy will evaluate," says Lena Lindblad.

The U.S. Navy is one of the world's largest ship owners and in the longer term, all of its vessels will be painted with a copper free paint.

“During a ten year period they have evaluated several different technologies. What speaks to our advantage is the very low level of copper in Selektope, only 0.1 percent.  In addition, we have been able to use research results to show ecotoxicological assessments presenting Selektope as an environmentally attractive option. This also adds to making paint producers see huge opportunities with Selektope," says Lena Lindblad.


Volvo Penta is I-Tech's industrial partner and the license owner of Selektope concerning all manufacturing of paint for recreational boats. On the vessel tonnage side, I- Tech still maintains full control and is actively working on product development with all major global paint companies.

Currently, there are several studies being conducted around the world testing Selektope in order to find the optimal color formulation.
Medetomidine hydrochloride is currently used as an anesthetic, mostly for animals. When the barnacle comes into direct contact with the substance it has the opposite effect causing the barnacle to become overactive. When the larva leaves the painted surface, the effect disappears and its swimming pattern returns to normal.
The barnacle (Cirripedia) is universally considered to be the most serious fouling organism in the world’s bodies of water.

More than 80,000 tons of antifouling paint is used yearly, representing a market value of over one billion Euros. However, the total cost to mankind is much higher.
Fuel consumption increases significantly, and calculations show that a vessel not treated with any anti-fouling agents swell their fuel consumption by up to 40 percent in only six months’ time.
The U.S. Navy calculates that its fuel costs have increased by 3 billion dollars per year due to marine fouling.

The research program Marine Paint, that produced the results concerning the barnacle larva, is now entering its last year as a Mistra financed research program.

Mistra Mistra