UWE Bristol – University of West England

Research Areas & Focuses

  1. Modelling biofilms, dual species biofilms, phage-treatment of biofilms; use of bioluminescent reporters
  2. Biohybrid robotic devices using continuous flow biofilm electrodes Microbial Fuel Cells, based on perfusion biofilm-electrodes; special designs of biofilm on electrodes, co-culture of chosen species to make synthetic microcosms, “Thick” biofilms (conventional; diffusion-limited) versus “thin” biofilms (monolayer) when grown in continuous flow perfusion biofilm culture
  3. Development of bio-electrodes for sensing the external physicochemical environment and their practical use as zero-energy sensors (Project called “living sensors”). Use of biofilm-electrodes for carrying out a wide range of specified (i.e. selected) biotransformations, and the development of energy autonomous biofilm-bioreactors, for (a) production of proteins, EPS enzymes, antibiotics (b) specific utilisation of target waste materials and rendering of DNA and other carbon-energy compounds (c) The design and building of energy-autonomous “elemental” re-cycling machines (for C, H, O, N, P, S, K, Mg)
  4. Biofilm-electrodes, bioelectronics and bio-robotics (EcoBot, Symbot)
  5. In vitro modelling of biofilms and application and translation to the industrial space (scale-up). At present, this research is driven by interactions with industry (UK SMEs) through knowledge exchange and research and development. In healthcare, current projects include investigating wound biofilms, to both gain an understanding of microbial biofilm formation and real-time monitoring of wound biofilm metabolomics to inform future diagnostic approaches. Within the food sector, recent projects have modelled biofilms on fresh food produce, to aid in industrial processing protocols to extend shelf-life and improve food safety. In the environmental sector, projects include the use of controlled biofilm bioreactors for water treatment applications, as well as modelling biofilms within filtration based treatment systems to address ongoing biofouling problems


For enquiries, please contact Darren Reynolds and Robin Thorn.


  • Access to low light level monitoring equipment and continuous perfusion biofilm systems, extensive capabilities for modelling and studying microbial biofilms, this ranges from small scale batch grown static biofilm systems, through continuous perfusion biofilm systems (e.g. CDC Biofilm reactors and drip-flow reactors) to bespoke built steady-state perfusion biofilm systems optimised for specific academic/industrial needs. Imaging capabilities include transmission electron microscopy, environmental scanning electron microscopy, confocal laser scanning microscopy and use of bioluminescent reporter strains monitored with low light photometry. This is coupled with standard culture techniques, fluorescent microscopy and flow cytometry. In addition, there is extensive capability at UWE Bristol for real-time monitoring of biofilm metabolomics using selected ion flow tube mass spectrometry (SIFT-MS) and use of bespoke volatile sensors built in-house, including sequential gas sampling for n=6 biofilm units).
  • Well appointed microbiology laboratories; Biofilm reactor suite with incubators, peristaltic pumps, and multiple replicate biofilm substratum units; systems for recording and logging of biofilm parameters including power output from the electrodes along with real-time sensors including pH-Optrodes.
  • Access to rapid prototyping of biofilm housing units.


John Greenman
Ioannis Ieropoulos, Engineering, Design and Mathematics
Shona Nelson, Applied Sciences
Darren Reynolds, Applied Sciences
Robin Thorn, Applied Sciences