Determination of mechanical properties of biofilms by modelling the deformation measured using optical coherence tomography

Cristian Picioreanu, Florian Blauert, Harald Horn, Michael Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (SciVal)


The advantage of using non-invasive imaging such as optical coherence tomography (OCT) to asses material properties from deformed biofilm geometries can be compromised by the assumptions made on fluid forces acting on the biofilm. This study developed a method for the determination of elastic properties of biofilms by modelling the biofilm deformation recorded by OCT imaging with poroelastic fluid-structure interaction computations. Two-dimensional biofilm geometries were extracted from OCT scans of non-deformed and deformed structures as a result of hydrodynamic loading. The biofilm geometries were implemented in a model coupling fluid dynamics with elastic solid mechanics and Darcy flow in the biofilm. The simulation results were compared with real deformed geometries and a fitting procedure allowed estimation of the Young's modulus in given flow conditions. The present method considerably improves the estimation of elastic moduli of biofilms grown in mini-fluidic rectangular channels. This superior prediction is based on the relaxation of several simplifying assumptions made in past studies: shear stress is not anymore taken constant over the biofilm surface, total stress including also pressure is accounted for, any biofilm shape can be used in the determinations, and non-linear behavior of mechanical properties can be estimated. Biofilm elastic moduli between 70 and 700 Pa were obtained and biofilm hardening at large applied stress due to increasing flow velocity was quantified. The work performed here opens the way for in-situ determination of other mechanical properties (e.g., viscoelastic properties, relaxation times, plastic yields) and provides data for modelling biofilm deformation and detachment with eventual applications in biofilm control and removal strategies.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)588-598
Number of pages11
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - Nov 15 2018
Externally publishedYes


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