Abstract

Microorganisms in aqueous environments attach to exposed surfaces, proliferate, excrete extracellular polymers, and form gelatinous layers termed biofilms. By altering interfacial chemistry, biofilms produce both beneficial and detrimental effects in natural environments, industry, and medicine. For example, biofilms cause infections in patients as well as the failure of many implanted medical devices, result in dental carries, and create conditions favorable for corrosion of metal structures in industry. In addition, biofilms are the source of free-floating microorganisms in high-purity water systems and can cause problems in the manufacture of semiconductor devices. Biofilms beneficially degrade waste in water treatment plants and ground water pollutants such as trichloroethylene. Thus, instrumentation providing information about the function, physiology, and effects of biofilms is required to increase our understanding of these complex interactions between the biofilm and its environment.

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