Interfacial Biology – Microorganisms on surfaces
Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology
Microorganisms like fungi and bacteria are omnipresent in nature and play an important role in all elemental-circuits. Therefore they are of vital importance to the continuity of ecosystems. They are even useful assistants to men: We employ them for brewing beer, baking bread, cleaning waste water or producing vitamins and antibiotics.
Though most of the time their adverse effects are detected so much faster: Contaminations in medical departments and industrial productionlines bring immense costs and cause heavy losses by rotting raw material or producing toxic by-products.
At the Fraunhofer IGB facility the relevance of biofilms was detected and their application promoted very early, e.g. to produce valuable products or to clean industrial and municipal wastewater. But as well their avoidance and abatement ist encouraged by innovative techniques. These requirements raised the demand for effective qualitative and quantitative evaluation methods to detect surfacebound microorganisms in medical engineering, construction and technical applications.
Fields of research
- Microbiological evaluation of surfaces and components in medical engineering, construction, technical applications, hygiene
- Immobilization of microorganisms on surfaces
- Biofilm prevention and use
- Inactivation and/or reduction of microbial cells by photocatalytical processes, antimicrobial surfaces, plasma sterilization, UV-treatment, ultrasound or filtration processes
- Use of signalling molecules
- Development and evaluation of (bio-)technical processes
The Fraunhofer IGB has developed standardized methods for the microbiological evaluation of the hygienic status of the technical surfaces, and media as well as water.
Evaluation of the hygiene status
- Measurement of cell counts
- Quantification of colony forming units
- Identification of microorganisms
- Biosensors for detection of microbial interaction with chemical or biological relevant substances
On that basis we develop adapted solutions for different applications
- Preventing microbial contamination
- Development and improvement of cleaning processes
- Evaluation of the hygiene status in different areas of application and processes
Good to know
- What are biofilms?
- Economic significance – Damages by microorganisms
- Formation of biofilms
- Practical test method with flow cells for biofilms
- Evaluating the hygienic situation of effluents
- Microbiological investigations into photocatalytic surfaces – a field trial
- AquaBioTox: Biological sensors for online monitoring of drinking water pipes
- Photocatalytic coatings to counteract microorganisms on surfaces
- Evaluation of microbial impurity on surfaces and in production-integrated media (e. g. water, raw materials, industrial products)
- Estimation of antimicrobial properties of specially coated surfaces
- Selection and cultivation of capable organisms to judge surfaces
- Development of methods for special demands and new requirements
Development of procedures and innovative materials
- Creating procedures to minimize the microbial and chemical load in various sectors (e. g. sterilization processes, elongation of retention times for cleansing baths, process water treatment, cost-efficient recycling of production-integrated media and waste water treatment)
- Development of innovative materials to reduce the upcoming of biofilms affecting packaging supply, pipelines, medical equipment and / or for the design of future work spaces
Bundled competence for complex requirements
The interdisciplinary cooperation between different departments of Fraunhofer IGB and also with other Fraunhofer institutes provides a close connection of material development chemical-physicals and biological revision, in which interested industrial partners are integrated in the context of mission oriented research. The aim is to create adapted solutions for each of these complex requirements.
- Microbiological laboratories with modern equipment as well as an appropriately qualified team permit the handling of microorganisms in the risk groups 1 and 2.
- Activation units are available for the examination of photocatalytically finished surfaces, in which a biological characterization of the specimens can be carried out under defined conditions.
- Qualitative and quantitative methods of measurement to compare different materials and products.
- Methods for the evaluation of the adhesion properties and the biofilm formation under static and dynamic conditions.
- Outdoor experiments to study the influence of weather conditions are planned on request.
Bacteria, fungi and algae are used as test organisms. The range includes studies with defined test strains of axenic cultures (e.g. Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Aspergillus niger, Scenedesmus spec.) as well as the use of mixed populations typical of the location. The choice of the test organisms is based on the cell wall composition of the organisms, well-known resistances, genetically determined metabolic properties, the fields of application intended for the products as well as the formation of the biofilm.
On the basis of the equipment available and the expert qualifications, the Fraunhofer IGB is able to work with microorganisms of the high-risk group 1 and 2. In addition, genetically modified strains of relevant organisms were developed that produce fluorescent proteins, which are expressed depending on the stage of the biofilm formation.