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New insight into the nature of biofilms

Research Achievements

New insight into the nature of biofilms

Collaboration between environmental engineers and microbiologists resulted in new insight into the nature of biofilms. IGERT participant Gabriela Hidalgo led work that developed new techniques for studying these complex domains. Attached bacterial communities often create microenvironments where local conditions are substantially different from those in the surrounding solution. Given their ubiquity in nature, and their impacts on issues ranging from water quality to human health, better tools for understanding biofilms, and the gradients they create, are needed. She used functional tomographic imaging via confocal fluorescence microscopy with silica nanoparticle sensors to study pH microenvironments in E. coli and mixed-culture wastewater biofilms. These studies demonstrate that the combination of 3D functional fluorescence imaging with well-designed nanoparticle sensors provides a powerful tool for characterization of chemical microenvironments in complex biofilms.