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Experiments on biofilm formation and growth in laminar flows

Time: Mon 2024-04-08 10.15

Location: 4383 - Seminarierum Hållfasthetslära, Teknikringen 8D

Language: English

Subject area: Engineering Mechanics

Doctoral student: Cornelius Wittig , Strömningsfysik

Opponent: Doctor Eleonora Secchi, ETH Zurich

Supervisor: Shervin Bagheri, Strömningsmekanik och Teknisk Akustik; Thomas Crouzier, Glykovetenskap; Wouter van der Wijngaart, Mikro- och nanosystemteknik

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QC 240314


The interaction between fluid dynamics and biofilm growth plays a key role in both medical and industrial applications. Biofilms, or bacteria that are embedded in a protective matrix of extracellular polymeric substances, settle on interfaces such as on implanted devices or ship hulls. These biofilms canthen cause infectious diseases or significantly increase drag. In this thesis, we investigate the influence of flow, specifically shear stress, on the development of biofilm.

The first paper presents a new facility to investigate biofilm growth in laminar flow cells over extended periods of up to several weeks. Optical coherence tomography is used to obtain three-dimensional scans of the biofilm structure at regular intervals. From these time series, we derive a simple model that relates the growth of an individual microcolony to the growth of the full biofilm depending on the wall shear stress. Additionally, we show that biofilm streamers, thin, flexible filaments that extend into the bulk flow, can form on sharp biofilm structures in laminar flow, even if the substratum is a flat surface.

The second contribution is a report detailing preliminary studies on biofilm experiments. We investigate the formation of biofilm in the shear layer behinda backward-facing step. The results indicate a maximum shear stress, beyond which biofilm growth is inhibited. We also provide guidelines for the design of experimental setups for the investigation of the influence of fluid dynamics on biofilm and vice-versa.