Wind park - source Pixabay

What became of …?

At Techtextil 2017, a new kind of knitted material made from basalt, which affords protection against underwater fouling on the piling for wind turbines and bridges, took home the ‘Techtextil Innovation Award’ in the ‘New Applications’ category. What became of it?

“The Techtextil Innovation Award really pushed the basalt fabric,” says André Niemann, Managing Director of Peterseim Strickwaren GmbH, who normally produce knitwear in cashmere, virgin wool, alpaca and cotton. Numerous potential customers from both Germany and elsewhere contacted him, in the weeks following the award ceremony, to ask him about this new kind of “basalt sock”. The key feature being its ability to prevent fouling on bridge supports, monopiles for offshore wind farms and the foundations of oil platforms. This sets in when microorganisms, plants and sea creatures attach to ships’ hulls and underwater structures. Up to now, the organisms have been prevented from feeling too at home, either through a laborious cleaning process or through the use of chemical paints and special plastic films – not too good an idea at a time when silly amounts of (micro) plastics are to be found in the world’s oceans.

Looks promising: with their basalt socks, we expect offshore wind farms to be protected from unwanted fouling on an industrial scale. (Source: Peterseim Strickwaren)

Looks promising: with their basalt socks, we expect offshore wind farms to be protected from unwanted fouling on an industrial scale. (Source: Peterseim Strickwaren)

From hot rocks to hot socks

Basalt is much more suitable in this situation, as it has one important property, which makes it non-hazardous to use under water: it is of natural origin. This volcanic rock once spread across the earth’s surface in the form of magma, erupting from volcanos and hotspots. When it cooled it became basalt lava, which is today used to build facing blocks for facades, stairs, gravestones and memorials – and to make the aforementioned ‘socks’ for underwater structures. “Basalt is an entirely natural product,” says Niemann, who hopes to offer a long-term, sustainable solution with his new knitted fabric, which will reduce the amount of chemicals and plastic that are used under water. It also means that expensive cleaning and maintenance procedures will no longer be necessary.

oUnderwater socks: divers attach the fabric, knitted from volcanic rock, to a bridge support (Source: Peterseim Strickwaren)

Underwater socks: divers attach the fabric, knitted from volcanic rock, to a bridge support (Source: Peterseim Strickwaren)

Straight into the deep

It all began with a buoy in the Baltic: “We were the industrial partners in a research project, for which we knitted a basalt jacket for a buoy,” explained Niemann. Its anti-fouling effect with regard to microorganisms was so convincing, that, immediately following the research work in February 2017, a market analysis was undertaken to identify possible applications. In May there followed the Techtextil Innovations Award. From then on, things moved straight into the deep: companies in Singapore and Dubai, whose core competences lie in harbour infrastructure, are currently testing the basalt ‘socks’ on a sea-water desalination plant and on bridge supports. The ‘socks’ are attached by divers and underwater robots. “There is no maximum depth,” says Niemann, who has also seen interest from the building sector and from filtration experts. There is even an on-going art project: “I can’t say too much about it, but it involves floating objects on the sea bed.” One thing’s for sure – they will be wearing snazzy (basalt) socks! +++

Title illustration: pixabay

Ronny Eckert

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