The objectives of this section are:
to give you a glimpse of the wide variety of environments in which biofilms grow
to give you basic knowledge of the negative effects of biofilms grown on industry and medicine
to help you understand that biofilms are a naturally occurring and often beneficial phenomenon on earth
Upon completion of this section students will be able to:
recognize possible biofilm formations in the natural environment
appreciate the effect of harmful biofilms on industry
realize the harmful result of biofilms that grow on medical equipment and implants.
As we've discussed previously in this section, biofilms grow just about anywhere. All it takes is:
Many different kinds of microorganisms can—and do—congregate to form a biofilm colony. For example, over 500 different microorganisms have been found in typical dental plaque. Such microorganisms are all around us, on us, and in us.
What kind of moisture is needed? Biofilms grow in fresh water, salt water, oil pipelines, in the human body, and, well, you name it. Just about any kind of naturally occurring moisture will do.
What biofilms feed on is just as varied. Certain biofilms even thrive on petroleum oil. Interestingly, the capacity of this kind of biofilm to gobble oil has both a bad and a good side. Oil-eating biofilms can grow in and clog an oil pipeline; they can also be used to clean up an oil spill.
As discussed in section 1, to form a biofilm, microorganisms must "glue" themselves to a surface, form colonies, and reproduce. Virtually any surface will serve the purpose: rocks, countertops, human tissue, and so forth.
In the following pages, we identify some specific environments that support biofilm growth that are of interest to biofilm engineers and scientists.