Hydrodynamics and surface properties influence biofilm proliferation

Milos Krsmanovic, Dipankar Biswas, Hessein Ali, Aloke Kumar, Ranajay Ghosh, Andrew K. Dickerson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


A biofilm is an interface-associated colloidal dispersion of bacterial cells and excreted polymers in which microorganisms find protection from their environment. Successful colonization of a surface by a bacterial community is typically a detriment to human health and property. Insight into the biofilm life-cycle provides clues on how their proliferation can be suppressed. In this review, we follow a cell through the cycle of attachment, growth, and departure from a colony. Among the abundance of factors that guide the three phases, we focus on hydrodynamics and stratum properties due to the synergistic effect such properties have on bacteria rejection and removal. Cell motion, whether facilitated by the environment via medium flow or self-actuated by use of an appendage, drastically improves the survivability of a bacterium. Once in the vicinity of a stratum, a single cell is exposed to near-surface interactions, such as van der Waals, electrostatic and specific interactions, similarly to any other colloidal particle. The success of the attachment and the potential for detachment is heavily influenced by surface properties such as material type and topography. The growth of the colony is similarly guided by mainstream flow and the convective transport throughout the biofilm. Beyond the growth phase, hydrodynamic traction forces on a biofilm can elicit strongly non-linear viscoelastic responses from the biofilm soft matter. As the colony exhausts the means of survival at a particular location, a set of trigger signals activates mechanisms of bacterial release, a life-cycle phase also facilitated by fluid flow. A review of biofilm-relevant hydrodynamics and startum properties provides insight into future research avenues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102336
JournalAdvances in Colloid and Interface Science
StatePublished - Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Biofilm structure
  • Cell motility
  • Shear stress
  • Surface energy
  • Surface pattern

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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