Through thick and thin: a microfluidic approach for continuous measurements of biofilm viscosity and the effect of ionic strength†
Continuous, non-intrusive measurements of time-varying viscosity of Pseudomonas sp. biofilms are made using a microfluidic method that combines video tracking with a semi-empirical viscous flow model. The approach uses measured velocity and height of tracked biofilm segments, which move under the constant laminar flow of a nutrient solution. Following a low viscosity growth stage, rapid thickening was observed. During this stage, viscosity increased by over an order of magnitude in less than ten hours. The technique was also demonstrated as a promising platform for parallel experiments by subjecting multiple biofilm-laden microchannels to nutrient solutions containing NaCl in the range of 0 to 34 mM. Preliminary data suggest a strong relationship between ionic strength and biofilm properties, such as average viscosity and rapid thickening onset time. The technique opens the way for a combinatorial approach to study the response of biofilm viscosity under well-controlled physical, chemical and biological growth conditions.