Viscoelastic fluid description of bacterial biofilm material properties
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A mathematical model describing the constitutive properties of biofilms is required for predicting biofilm deformation, failure and detachment in response to mechanical forces. Laboratory observations indicate that biofilms are viscoelastic materials. Likewise, current knowledge of biofilm internal structure suggests modeling biofilms as associated polymer viscoelastic systems. Supporting experimental results and a system of viscoelastic fluid equations with a linear Jeffreys viscoelastic stress-strain law are presented here. This system of equations is based on elements of associated polymer physics and is also consistent with presented and previous experimental results. A number of predictions can be made. One particularly interesting result is the prediction of an elastic relaxation time on the order of a few minutes: biofilm disturbances on shorter time scales produce an elastic response, biofilm disturbances on longer time scales result in viscous flow, i.e., non-reversible biofilm deformation. Although not previously recognized, evidence of this phenomenon is in fact present in recent experimental results.
Klapper I, Rupp CJ, Cargo R, Purevdorj B, and Stoodley P, "Viscoelastic fluid description of bacterial biofilm material properties," Biotech Bioeng, 2002 80(3):289–296.