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6.02 Interdisciplinary Modeling of Biofilms


Nature tends to use the cheap and available materials at small length scales to build species, where viscoelasticity is a common practice. Biofilms, an abundant example of such species, are microbial communities consisting of microorganisms surrounded by an extracellular polymeric matrix (EPS). Biofilms are a preferred way of microbial existence as they provide protection against existing physical forces and chemical attack, if necessary. Formation of a biofilm is desirable in some cases (wastewater treatment, biochemical production), whereas in others it poses severe problems (marine equipment fouling, biomaterial-related infections). Biofilm architecture, mechanics and its interaction with surrounding fluid can have profound influence on their behavior and potential treatments, i.e. susceptibility to sloughing, and antibiotic resistance. Consequently, a better understanding of biofilms will require reliable experimental findings and detailed models that are capable of predicting biofilm architecture and growth, and their interaction with surrounding fluids.

In This work, we propose to design an experiment to measure the mechanical properties and characteristics of biofilms in situ in a novel microfluidic device by applying a finite load on the structure. In order to extract the viscoelastic material properties out of the experimental data, a modified version of the in‐house Finite Element Code will be used initially. Furthermore, The advanced viscoelastic material will be implemented in a state of the art Fluid-Structure Interaction (FSI) model to study the formation of complex biofilm structures, such as ripples and streamers. Though composed of microorganisms, a biofilm is a macro-scale structure that interacts with its environment as a macro-scale material. The findings in this proposed study will shed a light on the missing understanding of the macro-scale dynamic lives of bacterial aggregates living in complex interactive environments.






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