DIGITAL ENGINEERING - Sonar Dome Anti-Fouling Tracking and Prediction Tool

Navy STTR 22.A - Topic N22A-T009
NAVSEA - Naval Sea Systems Command
Opens: January 12, 2022 - Closes: February 10, 2022 (12:00pm est)

N22A-T009 TITLE: DIGITAL ENGINEERING - Sonar Dome Anti-Fouling Tracking and Prediction Tool

OUSD (R&E) MODERNIZATION PRIORITY: General Warfighting Requirements (GWR)

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Information Systems

OBJECTIVE: Develop a capability to collect, analyze, and predict levels of Tributyltin Oxide (TBTO) in deployed sonar domes.

DESCRIPTION: A sonar dome protects the acoustic transducers, to reduce noise and enable optimal sonar performance. Crucial to its function is that the dome does not foul. Historically, this has been done by imbuing sonar domes with Tributyltin Oxide (TBTO) during the manufacturing process. Research to prevent fouling has not developed an alternative that is qualified for the domes on surface combatants. Even when a new anti-fouling method may be identified, there will be scores of sonar domes imbued with TBTO, with decades of remaining service. A combatant is at sea for about eight years before maintenance carried out at dry dock. Conventional, off-the-shelf antifouling approaches do not work with sonar domes, because they are made of rubber.

The Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has recently developed a rapid, non-destructive, and inexpensive method to measure TBTO (or other anti-fouling systems) in sonar domes while a ship is dry docked. This will provide, for the first time, the data necessary for a nuanced understanding of the anti-fouling efficacy, throughout its service life.

The Navy seeks technology that will enable central management of these measurements from USN sonar domes that are deployed to locations and environments around the world, together with an ontological framework to record pertinent information about the sonar dome, such as manufacturing details and service life history. It is also desired that the architecture of the proposed technology accommodate a methodology for predicting anti-fouling life and updated algorithms as data supports algorithm refinement. Development of an initial predictive algorithm could fall within the scope of this STTR topic.

The Navy seeks a centralized capability for collecting this information, populating an ontological framework with pertinent data (such as sonar dome manufacturing details and service life history) for each measurement, and predicting future TBTO levels to understand both:

  1. When sonar domes will need to be replaced due to depletion of TBTO.
  2. When it may be appropriate to reduce the amount of TBTO (or future anti-foulant) used in new-construction sonar domes with changes in dome material or anti-foulant.

The centralized capability will enable the Navy to minimize maintenance while also minimizing harm to the marine environment.

The framework described herein must include:

  • A method to capture data from a measurement tool for utilization in a Fleet-wide physics-based model designed for modular updating manually via future re-assessment of an updated database.
  • A graphical user interface (GUI) that displays tracked values of interest.

Examples of potential elements to this ontology are:

  • Measured anti-foulant loading remaining in coating.
  • Models of TBTO degradation as a function of time and combatant travel profile.
  • Predicted remaining lifespan of sonar dome TBTO based on measurements and predicted travel profile.
  • Updated physics-based model calculations.

Any additional ontological elements that would improve the model would be welcome.

The physics-based model shall also incorporate:

  1. Input parameters, including service conditions, that may vary over a deployment. Variables of primary considerations are surface ocean temperature and salinity, but others may be added.
  2. Capability to change the input properties, to accommodate updated material specifications and other improvements.

PHASE I: Develop a concept for a physics-based database and GUI for diffusion from a sonar dome that meets all the parameters in the Description. Demonstrate the concept is feasible through analysis, simulation, and modelling. Preliminary experimental data will be provided by NRL. The Phase I Option, if exercised, will include the initial design specifications and a capabilities description to build a prototype solution in Phase II.

PHASE II: Develop and deliver a prototype physics-based database and GUI for the TBTO collection and prediction capability. Demonstrate the prototype meets the required range of desired performance attributes given in the Description. Feasibility will be demonstrated through system performance with information from initial TBTO measurements that will be collected. Develop a Phase III commercialization plan.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Support the Navy in transitioning the technology for Navy use as software to collate, analyze, and manage TBTO data collected and tested via a hardware measurement capability maintained by IWS 5.0. Demonstrate and report on performance during laboratory testing.

This technology can be used in a wide range of products where measurements of toxins or other material dopants of specified loadings are collected and predictions of future state are dependent on numerous variables which are not entirely dependent on one another. With the appropriate modifications, it may be used to monitor performance of commercial antifoulant systems, particularly when a new system is being adopted. The technology would be of greatest use in cases where environmental impact of a substance is of national or global concern, particularly in water / wastewater management or aquaculture settings.


  1. Omae, Iwao. (2003). "Organotin Antifouling Paints and Their Alternatives." Applied Organometallic Chemistry, Vol. 17, n2 (200302), . 81 - 105.
  2. Donnelly, Bradley et al. (2019) "Effects of Various Antifouling Coatings and Fouling on Marine Sonar Performance. Polymers." Polymers Vol. 11, Issue 4, 663.
  3. "AN/SQQ-89(V) Undersea Warfare / Anti-Submarine Warfare Combat System." United States Navy Fact File, 24 March 2021.

KEYWORDS: Sonar dome; tributyltin oxide; TBTO; anti-fouling for sonar domes; ontological framework; predicting anti-fouling life; water management; wastewater management; aquaculture


The Navy Topic above is an "unofficial" copy from the overall DoD 22.A STTR BAA. Please see the official DoD Topic website at for any updates.

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