The Future Is Here: Bottom Cleaning Nanobots

1 Apr

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With copper-based antifouling paints just being banned in Washington state, the writing is on the wall. We’re going to have to figure out an an environmentally-friendly way to keep the critters from growing on the bottoms of our boats. That’s where BottomBot comes in.

Dan Stein, BottomBot’s CEO says, “We took our technology from the medical industry, where nanobots have long been in development. There is a family of nanobots designed to be released in the blood stream to remove plaque from the insides of your arteries. These nanobots aren’t quite ready for prime time in medicine, for safety reasons, but the bottom of a boat is much less sensitive than say, your aorta.”
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BottomBot’s first product in in beta testing on 25 boats in the Pacific Northwest. Sam Stanton, a beta tester, says, “It’s like having a bunch of little pets. I can’t see them of course, but sometimes at night I think I can hear them. It’s not perfect yet – some parts of my bottom stay cleaner than others – but my boat hasn’t had any antifoul on in for eight months, and these are quite fertile waters, and the nanobots seem to remove all the growth.”

The base product for a 40-foot sail or power boat includes 2000 nanobots and a charging station. The charging station looks like a scoop for a thru-hull, and each nanobot must make its way back to the charging station once a day, where its tiny battery gets magnetically recharged.

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“Our biggest hurdle was getting them to stick to the bottom.” says Stein “It was fine while the boat was sitting the the berth, but once a boat hit 8 knots a lot of the bots washed off, and this got expensive. We experimented with a ferrous bottom coating, so the bots could attach magnetically, but this just exchanged one metal-based bottom coating for another, and introduced corrosion issues. We ended up with a patented design where the nanobot is shaped like a limpet, and moving water actually helps it stick to the bottom at high speed. Still, a few get lost, and some fail, every week, so every year or two you’ll need to replace a couple hundred bots to retain good cleaning ability on your entire hull.”

Each bot has simple directional programming that sends it out over the bottom in random direction. “It works kind of like a bunch of Roombas,” says Stein, “Then each bot has a tiny scraper, and just removes anything softer than epoxy as it moves along.”

Initial pricing is expected to be over $15,000 for a 40-foot boat, but the prices are expected to come down. “When you consider that this gets you out of doing bottom jobs forever, it eventually pays for itself,” said one of the beta testers.

“The boat’s bottom ends up free of marine growth, but eventually there is this accumulation of grey goo.”

This article was syndicated from The Adventures of the Vessel Condesa

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