Biofilm Mechanics

Most bacteria do not exist as free swimming individuals, but on surfaces in soft, gel-like communities called biofilms. These films are implicated in a tremendous number of health and industrial problems such as hip implant infections and oil pipeline deterioration, but they also play beneficial roles in sewage treatment and agricultural plant protection. For both beneficial and problematic biofilms, knowledge of their mechanical response to physical forces is critically important, yet greatly lacking. Our research in this area aims to address this knowledge gap by using micromechanical measurements to develop a fundamental, materials-based understanding of biofilm mechanics. These studies could lead to new materials-based strategies for biofilm removal, which are sorely needed.