Life under flow: a novel microfluidic device for the assessment of anti-biofilm technologies

Maria Salta, Lorenzo Capretto, Dario Carugo, Julian A. Wharton, Keith R. Stokes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the current study, we have developed and fabricated a novel lab-on-a-chip device for the investigation of biofilm responses, such as attachment kinetics and initial biofilm formation, to different hydrodynamic conditions. The microfluidic flow channels are designed using computational fluid dynamic simulations so as to have a pre-defined, homogeneous wall shear stress in the channels, ranging from 0.03 to 4.30 Pa, which are relevant to in-service conditions on a ship hull, as well as other man-made marine platforms. Temporal variations of biofilm formation in the microfluidic device were assessed using time-lapse microscopy, nucleic acid staining, and confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM). Differences in attachment kinetics were observed with increasing shear stress, i.e., with increasing shear stress there appeared to be a delay in bacterial attachment, i.e., at 55, 120, 150, and 155 min for 0.03, 0.60, 2.15, and 4.30 Pa, respectively. CLSM confirmed marked variations in colony architecture, i.e.,: (i) lower shear stresses resulted in biofilms with distinctive morphologies mainly characterised by mushroom-like structures, interstitial channels, and internal voids, and (ii) for the higher shear stresses compact clusters with large interspaces between them were formed. The key advantage of the developed microfluidic device is the combination of three architectural features in one device, i.e., an open-system design, channel replication, and multiple fully developed shear stresses.
Original languageEnglish
Article number064118
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes


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