Biofilm forms when bacterial cells cluster together, creating a structured community designed to enhance each cell's chance of survival. Initially, bacterial cells float freely before adhering to the internal walls and grouping into small clusters. In order to remain anchored to the surface, the cells secrete a sticky substance, forming slime. This aggregation of bacterial cells and protective slime is formally known as biofilm.
The Implications of Biofilm
Biofilm formation is most favorable in aqueous environments, which makes medical equipment the ideal situation for bacteria to thrive. If left untouched, the separate biofilm clusters mature and join together, which can create complications for important medical equipment and subsequent surgical procedures. If not sufficiently removed, biofilm can lead to dangerous infections. However, the biofilm "slime" is slippery, which creates a dilemma for standard cleaning procedures.
The Role of Rheology
In order to better understand how to eradicate biofilm, it is vital to understand what is happening on a molecular level. At its core, rheology is the study of flow and deformation of matter, largely used to describe the complex behavior of materials in response to force, deformation, and time. One important characteristic of fluids as described and studied in rheology is shear thinning. This describes the non-Newtonian behavior in which the fluid viscosity decreases as shear increases, a vital property for fluids designed to flow through narrow channels or profuse across surfaces.
A Taste of Tribology
Tribology is the study of surfaces as they move relative to one another, and it drives our perception of friction amongst other key topics. Friction plays a vital role in NovaFlux devices and formulations, acting as the driving force to remove biofilm in diverse applications. In order to counteract the slippery nature of biofilm, friction is a necessary tool to cling to the outer layer of maturing biofilms and flush them from the surface. Likewise, tribology enables us to understand key contributions to friction, including the varying modes of friction and the electromagnetic attraction between surface particles.