Understanding Biofilm adhesion to various surfaces under contraction and expansion flows


Develop methods, models and mechanistic understanding of adhesion and removal from model surfaces for consumer relevant substrates (teeth, fabric and wash sponges)


Selected ESR: Luca Pellegrino

Supervisor Name: Joao Cabral

Industrial Supervisors: Eric Robles, Anju Brooker, Kevin Wright

Recruiting Organisation: Imperial College London, London, UK


There has been a constant drive for smart technology toward the development of materials and surfaces capable of repelling or killing pathogenic microorganisms present in various situations of our daily life and industry such as hospital tools, food packages, pipelines, and kitchen and bathroom surfaces. Most of these surfaces are not intrinsically bactericidal and modifications are thus required for microorganism destruction and prevention of further bacterial infections.

Many naturally occurring high aspect ratio surface topographies have been discovered that exhibit high levels of biocidal efficacy. Among these, the epicuticular lipid nano-architecture that forms on surfaces of cicada and dragonflies wings. The antimicrobial activity of these surfaces has been found to be related to the physical interaction between the nanoscale topography and the attaching bacterial cells, exploiting the antibacterial activity with no influence from the biochemical surface functionality.

Equipped with this knowledge, is desirable to try to replicate these functional nanostructured surfaces in order to model and deeply understand their action mechanisms and tailor nanopatterned surfaces with tuneable architectures. Soft lithography provides an interesting array of techniques to develop well defined patterned surfaces with features ranging from the nano up to the microscale on large surface areas employing effortless and cost-effective procedures.  

Because biofilms usually develop in “wet” and well-defined enclosed environments, microfluidics provides a unique tool to investigate biofilm deposition, as well as removal, attachment and growth of bacteria, and their displacement. Microfluidic channels can be developed to create model environment with tailored architectures, in which different typologies of flow regimes could be developed and the effect on biofilm life cycle studied.