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Optical sensing of microbial life on surfaces

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M. Fischer, G. J. Triggs, T. F. Krauss

School/Research organisations


The label-free detection of microbial cells attached to a surface is an active field of research. The field is driven by the need to understand and control the growth of biofilms in a number of applications, including basic research in natural environments, industrial facilities, and clinical devices, to name a few. Despite significant progress in the ability to monitor the growth of biofilms and related living cells, the sensitivity and selectivity of such sensors are still a challenge. We believe that among the many different technologies available for monitoring biofilm growth, optical techniques are the most promising, as they afford direct imaging and offer high sensitivity and specificity. Furthermore, as each technique offers different insights into the biofilm growth mechanism, our analysis allows us to provide an overview of the biological processes at play. In addition, we use a set of key parameters to compare state-of-the-art techniques in the field, including a critical assessment of each method, to identify the most promising types of sensors. We highlight the challenges that need to be overcome to improve the characteristics of current biofilm sensor technologies and indicate where further developments are required. In addition, we provide guidelines for selecting a suitable sensor for detecting microbial cells on a surface.



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1362-1371
Number of pages10
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016

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