« Return to AACT homepage

AACT Member-Only Content

You have to be an AACT member to access this content, but good news: anyone can join!

Need Help?

Ingenious: Making Shipping Greener with Hairy Ships Video Questions Mark as Favorite (3 Favorites)

ACTIVITY in Intermolecular Forces, Polarity, Molecular Structure, Combustion, Molecular Structure . Last updated November 24, 2021.


In this activity, students will answer questions while watching the video Making Shipping Greener with Hairy Ships from the Ingenious series produced by the American Chemical Society. Each episode investigates a different topic related to how leading-edge chemistry is taking on the world’s most urgent issues to advance everyone’s quality of life and secure our shared future. This episode investigates the “fouling” of boats (when aquatic animals like barnacles and tubeworms attach to hulls), and the impact it has on fuel efficiency. Since fouling is a significant contributor to the carbon footprint, this video highlights how scientists were inspired by unique aquatic plants to develop a stick-on silicone coating for ships that prevents animal hitchhikers from getting a foothold.

Grade Level

High School


By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

  • Explain the term “fouling” and describe the challenges it presents.
  • Describe the meaning of a carbon footprint.
  • Explain the molecular structure of water, and how it interacts with both hydrophilic and hydrophobic substances. 
  • Provide a basic explanation of how the new stick-on silicone coating developed by scientists will improve global shipping.

Chemistry Topics

This activity supports students’ understanding of:

  • Molecular Structure
  • Intermolecular Forces
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Physical Properties
  • Chemical Reactions
  • Combustion


Teacher Preparation: minimal
Lesson: 10-20 minutes



  • No specific safety precautions need to be observed for this activity.

Teacher Notes

  • The Ingenious video series spotlights stories from the frontlines of chemistry research and development, where passionate innovators are stepping up to confront problems like pollution, overfishing, sustainability, and personal safety.
  • In this video, Making Shipping Greener with Hairy Ships, students will learn about the “fouling” of boats—when aquatic animals like barnacles and tubeworms attach to hulls—has been a nuisance for as long as we’ve been sailing the seas. Fouling messes up a vessel’s streamlined shape, decreasing its speed, maneuverability, and in modern times, its fuel efficiency. Fouling spikes the carbon footprint of the shipping industry, already greater than that of most countries. For centuries, people used copper coatings to prevent fouling. Modern solutions use toxic chemical paints that pollute water, kill marine life, and contribute to the degradation of our oceans when they wear off. A new approach is trying to work with nature instead of against it. Taking inspiration from the Salvinia plant, which is covered in tiny hair-like structures that make it basically waterproof, scientists are developing a stick-on silicone coating for ships that prevents animal hitchhikers from getting a foothold.
  • The running time of this video is about 6 minutes and 15 seconds. As it is a short video and it moves quickly, you may want to show it twice, or instruct students to pause the video as needed on their own devices to ensure that they can record answers to all of the questions.
  • The student questions are presented in sequential order in the video.
  • An answer key has also been provided for teacher reference.
  • The final questions are reflection-based and might be helpful in prompting a class discussion after students have a few minutes to answer them independently.
  • The AACT classroom resource library offers many related teaching ideas. Below are several focused on the chemistry of water, plant chemistry, and the carbon footprint:

For the Student



While watching the video, answer the following questions:

  1. What pollutant is released into the atmosphere because of global shipping?
  2. What is “fouling”?
  3. True or False? Drag causes a ship to burn more CO2.
  4. What metal has been used on ships to prevent fouling?
  5. True or False? The metal-based paint used to prevent fouling is eco-friendly.
  6. What does hydrophobic mean?
  7. Are water molecules polar or non-polar? Is this important?
  8. What is an important result of the interaction between the hair-like structures and water? (What do they accomplish together?)

After you watch the video, reflect on the following questions:

  1. Can you think of any other real-world applications where this new self-adhesive coating/sticker would be useful?
  2. What additional questions would you have for a scientist in this field? What more do you want to know?