Composite Lines for Kelp Aquaculture
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Composite Lines for Kelp Aquaculture

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  • Description:
    Ropes from offshore kelp farming have the potential to increase the risk of entanglement to marine mammals such as the North Atlantic Right Whale. In an effort to mitigate these risks, researchers at the PNNL Marine and Coastal Research Laboratory and Pete Lynn at Otherlab proposed the idea to replace fiber ropes in aquaculture systems with composite lines. This project is part of a larger research project funded by DOE ARPA-E called Continuous, High-Yield Kelp Production. Our group wanted to identify a composite-based product that could act as a tension bearing line and break if encountered by a large marine animal, like a whale, but also be strong enough to support the growth of kelp on it and withstand the force of the ocean. The research over this past year has focused on TUF-BAR, a fiberglass rebar. The mechanical properties of these bars eliminate marine mammal entanglement by breaking as a result of an interaction, therefore mitigating injuries. By breaking instead of trapping a marine mammal, this composite line will reduce the risk of entanglement and potential death due to reduced mobility, inability to feed or inflammation. This research focused on the biological and engineering aspects of using composite lines. Biological objectives include identifying biofouling species that accumulated on the composite lines, researching how the biofouling organisms could affect the composite materials and kelp growing on the lines, looking into kelp holdfast attachment, and completing an experiment to collect data on how kelp and biofouling grows on the composite material compared to nylon and polypropylene ropes which are typically used in kelp aquaculture systems. Engineering objectives focused on the mechanical performance of these rods, durability of the rods and strength of the attachments investigated by laboratory testing (tensile, fatigue, microstructure), and field-testing. Microscopic analysis of cross sections from the exposed rod showed possible damage after nine months of deployment in the water.
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