Research area: Microbial Adhesion and Biofilm Formation

Research sponsor: BBSRC and Procter & Gamble

Project overview

Biofilms are a significant problem for many industries, from medical devices, oil and gas and industrial chemical manufacturers, water distribution, air handling systems and heating systems. Net costs due to biofilm contamination are estimated to cost industry approximately US$500Bn worldwide (Kane Biotech 2011).

Biofilms are communities of microbes that attach and grow on almost any surface. They are characterised by the expression of a protective layer over the colony which is mainly polysaccharide in nature. The two prerequisites for biofilm formation are; a surface and the presence of water either on a permanent or temporary basis. They are able to establish quickly in a matter of hours and can be very difficult and costly to remove (Palmer, Flint et al. 2007).

This project is focused on increasing understanding of biofilm establishment, by investigating the contribution of the conditioning film properties on facilitating microbial attachment to gold surfaces initially, then to more industrially relevant materials such as steel. An investigation will aim to determine the extent to which current cleaning regimes employed in industry are successful at removing not only the microbes from a surface but also a number of representative conditioning agents, thus increasing their understanding of what a ‘clean’ surface really is.


Kane Biotech, I. (2011). "About Kane." Retrieved 29.10.2013, 2013, from

Palmer, J., S. Flint and J. Brooks (2007). "Bacterial cell attachment, the beginning of a biofilm." Journal of Industrial Microbiology & Biotechnology 34(9): 577-588.