Diffusiophoretic Particle Penetration into Bacterial Biofilms

Ambika Somasundar, Boyang Qin, Suin Shim, Bonnie L. Bassler, Howard A. Stone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bacterial biofilms are communities of cells adhered to surfaces. These communities represent a predominant form of bacterial life on Earth. A defining feature of a biofilm is the three-dimensional extracellular polymer matrix that protects resident cells by acting as a mechanical barrier to the penetration of chemicals, such as antimicrobials. Beyond being recalcitrant to antibiotic treatment, biofilms are notoriously difficult to remove from surfaces. A promising, but relatively underexplored, approach to biofilm control is to disrupt the extracellular polymer matrix by enabling penetration of particles to increase the susceptibility of biofilms to antimicrobials. In this work, we investigate externally imposed chemical gradients as a mechanism to transport polystyrene particles into bacterial biofilms. We show that preconditioning the biofilm with a prewash step using deionized (DI) water is essential for altering the biofilm so it takes up the micro- and nanoparticles by the application of a further chemical gradient created by an electrolyte. Using different particles and chemicals, we document the transport behavior that leads to particle motion into the biofilm and its further reversal out of the biofilm. Our results demonstrate the importance of chemical gradients in disrupting the biofilm matrix and regulating particle transport in crowded macromolecular environments, and suggest potential applications of particle transport and delivery in other physiological systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33263-33272
Number of pages10
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number28
StatePublished - Jul 19 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Materials Science


  • biofilms
  • chemical gradients
  • diffusiophoresis
  • particle transport
  • porous media


Dive into the research topics of 'Diffusiophoretic Particle Penetration into Bacterial Biofilms'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this