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Biofilm Flow Cells

Fundamental processes of biofilm formation and development are commonly studied in the laboratory using flow-cells specifically designed to be compatible with high resolution imaging techniques such as confocal microscopy. Flow cells allow biofilms to be grown in observation chambers under a wide range of flow rates and nutrient conditions. Flow cells are 'open systems' which allow the continual replenishment of fresh nutrients, in a similar manner the real environment, whether medical, natural or industrial. Biofilm flow cells have been commonly used to study the attachment of single bacterial, fungal or algal cells to various surfaces. By counting individual cells over time the surface concentration (cells / unit area) and accumulation rate can be calculated for assessing the fouling potential of different surfaces. However, flow cells are also used to study the development of mature biofilms and assess how changes in the growth environment or specific genetic mutations may affect the structure of mature biofilms, detachment from biofilms, spatial and temporal gene expression, the distribution of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS), mechanical properties and biofilm˝human leukocyte interactions.

Types Of Flow Cells

There are many types of flow cells some of which are commercially available and some of which are manufactured by individual researchers.


Capillary flow cells are low maintenance and can be used to grow biofilms under high and low shear. Pictured are the BioSurface Technologies BST FC91 and BST93 flow cells.

Flat plate flow cells such as the BST FC81 can accommodate coupons of different materials (plastics, ceramics, and metals) to study biofilm development on surfaces other than glass. Pictured BST FC71.


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