09/04/2023 | Pressemitteilung

Larabicus develops cleaning robots for ship hulls

Florian Gerland and Thomas Schomberg from the University of Kassel and their team have received EXIST research transfer funding of 1.2 million euros for their "Larabicus" project. They are developing a cleaning robot that keeps the hulls of ships clean of algae and mussels while underway.

Image: Andreas Fischer.
From left to right: Dr.-Ing. Florian Gerland, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Olaf Wünsch and Thomas Schomberg.

Merchant ships travel huge distances - and have always carried a large number of invasive organisms into foreign ecosystems. Within just a few hours or days, pollution and incrustations form under the water surface on the hull of the ship, e.g. due to algae or mussels. Such a layer of slime increases the resistance in the water and thus slows the ship down. As a result, more fuel is consumed and CO2 emissions increase.

Named after its ecological role model - the cleaner wrasse "Larabicus quadrilineatus", which frees larger fish from parasites - this is where the Larabicus project comes in: Small robots are to take over precisely this task on the ship's hull. The aim is to prevent the formation of slime layers as far as possible and to keep the surface of the ship's hull as smooth as possible. "We are developing a technology that gently removes the growth over the long term without damaging the paint," explains Thomas Schomberg. Ship paints currently still contain biocides and are therefore highly toxic. "Gentle cleaning is essential to ensure that as little of this paint as possible is removed in the water."

With this innovation, the Larabicus team is hitting the nerve of the times. Now that ships are also receiving energy labels, shipping companies are increasingly willing to invest in new, cost-saving solutions. "GreenTech needs investment," affirms Dr. Florian Gerland. "Even if you ignore the ecological benefits of our cleaning robots - the system also offers an economic advantage from the very first day of use."

Schomberg and Gerland work as research assistants at the Department of Fluid Mechanics. "I am very pleased to be able to support this innovative project," emphasizes mentor and head of department Prof. Dr.-Ing. "It is a perfect example of how research in our field can lead to practical, sustainable solutions. Larabicus will make a valuable contribution to protecting the climate and preserving biodiversity, thus making the sustainability strategy of the University of Kassel particularly visible."

The technical development of the robots is the focus of Gerland and Schomberg at the University of Kassel. Larabicus also includes an employee in Kiel, who compares and optimizes cleaning methods, and an employee in Hamburg, who maintains contacts with network and industry partners and prepares the market launch of the product.

After winning the UNIKAT ideas competition 2020, the two research assistants have now acquired funding for outstanding research-based start-up projects with the support of UniKasselTransfer. UniKasselTransfer is a central institution of the University of Kassel that, among other things, supports those interested in founding a company in turning their ideas into a business model and assists them in applying for an EXIST start-up grant or EXIST research transfer. The EXIST Transfer of Research funding program of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection supports the transfer and transition of promising research results into a business start-up in two funding phases. Larabicus will now be funded for two years from September 2023 with a total of 1.2 million euros. The company will also be founded during this time.



Florian Gerland / Thomas Schomberg
University of Kassel
Department of Fluid Mechanics
E-mail: info[at]larabicus[dot]com


Contact for questions about EXIST research transfer:

Gabriele Hennemuth
University of Kassel
UniKasselTransfer Gründungsberatung
Phone: +49 561 804-1859
Email: hennemuth[at]uni-kassel[dot]de