As long as navies and sailors have plied the seas, they have had to deal with barnacles – the crustacean pests that cluster on hulls and create significant drag and energy inefficiency. Should the efforts a team from the Office of Naval Research and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology bear fruit, barnacles would have a much tougher time wreaking their havoc. Led by MIT scientist and professor Xuanhe Zhao, the team is working on development of a material that would enable barnacle-proof coatings to adhere to ships’ hulls longer. The material would be made of non-toxic chemicals or pollutants, and retain moisture longer than substances now in use. “Our approach was inspired by human skin. The skin has an outer epidermis that protects nerves, capillaries, muscles and organs – and keeps them from drying out, maintaining their compliance,” Zhao said. The substance Zhao and his colleagues are working on would create something to mimic the desirable properties of human skin, using elastic polymers that are impervious to water.