Wayne State University start-up, Repela Tech, developing eco-friendly marine vessel coating

Repela Tech, LLC, a Detroit-based materials technology startup and Wayne State University spin-out, is developing a novel eco-friendly antifouling technology for the marine and shipping industries with the help of two National Science Foundation grants – a $225,000 Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I grant and a $50,000 I-Corps award. The technology was developed by Zhiqiang Cao, Ph.D., associate professor of chemical engineering in Wayne State’s College of Engineering.

Antifoulants are a specialized marine coating used by recreational and commercial vessels to inhibit biofouling, the attachment of marine organisms to underwater surfaces.  Antifouling is critical to keeping hulls clean, which improves vessel speed and fuel efficiency.  However, over 90% of the antifoulants that are in use today contain toxic chemicals that are harmful to the marine environment. Many of these chemicals, called biocides, face regulatory scrutiny.  Repela’s antifouling coating contains no biocides.

Repela’s technology is based on a material composition of super-hydrophilic polymers.  Hydrophilic materials are notoriously unstable in aqueous environments, but the team at Repela have developed a patented method for stabilizing and enhancing the material’s durability, making it feasible for use in marine applications. The antifouling solution not only improves fuel efficiency but also satisfies environmental concerns by replacing current toxic coating products

Repela’s Phase I Small Business Technology Transfer grant is helping the company validate the feasibility of its technology and move the technology to a prototype stage.  From its participation in I-Corps, Repela gained critical insight from over 100 customer discovery interviews that have become the basis of its commercialization strategy. Repela has also received extensive support from Wayne State University’s Technology Commercialization office, which provided incubation funding and mentorship, and the Mike Ilitch School of Business, which delivered business model guidance through its Entrepreneurship and Innovation program.

For more information about Repela, visit here.


Contact info

Julie O'Connor

Director, Research Communications
Phone: 313-577-8845
Email: julie.oconnor@wayne.edu