Biofilms Are All Around Us
What are biofilms? Biofilms are made of numerous living micro-organisms, such as bacteria or fungi, evolving and growing as a collective. Without realising it, you actually see biofilms everyday. Biofilms grow particularly well in wet areas such as the light pink areas in your shower and the grey parts you can see in pipes at home.
Organisms Communicating Together
This is a bit like LEGO pieces: one LEGO piece does not have much use; neither does an unassembled stack of LEGO pieces. However, if one starts assembling these LEGO pieces together, they will create something totally new, with new functions, and very different to the stack of unassembled LEGO pieces.
In biofilms, micro-organisms will communicate together and assemble by themselves, creating a new material (a film) of very different proprieties from the original, single micro-organism.
Why is Biofilm Research Important?
Biofilms are all around us, so both fundamental and applied research on biofilms can have significant implications and practical applications on the world around us.
The Forefront of Biofilm Research
This can range from fighting antibiotic resistance to engineering anti-clogging pipes, from designing improved, more targeted drugs to creating new long-lasting paints for boat. This is why NBIC has been established: to be at the forefront of biofilm research and deliver significant and impactful innovations for society.
We’ve put some educational resources together to support the knowledge and understanding of these valuable and powerful micro-organisms.
The Biofilm Brainhub is a biofilm knowledge website, built in partnership with the Quadram Institute. The website has been built with the support of the wider research community and features information on biofilms for a wide range of publics, through multiple clickable layers of information.
Together with Microbiology Society we have put together an explanatory guide devoted to biofilms.
Biofilm Image Gallery
In 2021 we launched our #BiofilmAware photography competitions. This biofilm image gallery contains a selection of images from our ‘Biofilms in the lab’ and ‘Biofilms in Real Life’ photography competitions. This gallery also holds a number of entries from the photography category of our 2022 Biofilm Create! Competition.
Biofilm Art Gallery
In July 2022 we launched our Biofilm Create! Competition as part of our #BiofilmAware campaign. This gallery holds a number of entries from the art category of the competition.
Interactive Biofilm Ontology Map
We have devoted time across our industrial and academic communities to understand the language and terminology of biofilms, and this has been captured as an ontology on the MindManager platform. This was developed in consultation with 80 UK researchers (in industry and research institutions/universities) to document how they talk about and describe biofilm research, problems and opportunities.
International Biofilm Markets Posters
In the summer of 2020, we commissioned an independent study on international biofilm markets to further understand the economic significance of biofilms in the UK and globally. Using the results of this study we created an infographics pack, which highlight key facts and statistics relating to six international biofilm markets – personal care, human health, food processing, marine biofouling, oral care and home care. These infographics can be used as posters for educational and teaching purposes and as part of public engagement activities.
MicroBattle: A Microbiology Card Game
The MicroBattle Project from the Quadram Institute was funded by our NBIC Public Engagement Grant 2020-2021. MicroBattle (µB) is a microbiology themed competitive card game with the aim to win battles of simulated microbial biofilm growth against your opponent. You can choose from many microbes (in the form of Microbe Cards) and many growth conditions (in the form of Battle Cards) and customize your path to victory.
Craft a Biofilm Wall
This activity is designed to engage a wide range of people, of varied ages, abilities and interest, with biofilms and microbiology, through crafts. The activity was developed by Hollie Shaw, Karolina Pyrzanowskay, Isabel Parreira (University of Sheffield) and JC Denis (University of Edinburgh).
Have a go at this biofilm hunt developed for the Southampton Science and Engineering Festival by NBIC BITE PhD and University of Southampton student Declan Power. Using the examples of biofilms on this activity worksheet, see if you can find any biofilms that might be living around your home, and outdoors in the environment.
Make your own Mighty Microbe toy
Meet NBIC partner Katherine Fish, a Civil Engineer at the University of Sheffield. Find out how she works with microbes and learn to make your own Mighty Microbe toy!
Images of Microbiology Picture Book
In this picture book you will find a series of images taken by scientists based at the University of Dundee that highlight the microbes they work with. The images in the collection are part of a physical exhibition located at the Dundee Science Centre.
Provided to NBIC by Nicola Stanley-Wall, University of Dundee.
What are biofilms and why are they important?
Biofilms can be harnessed to tackle a number of global challenges.
University of Edinburgh student Grace Carpenter has created this video to explain their importance and impact on our world.
Super Biomaterials to Fight Superbugs
Meet Pseudomonas aeruginosa – the superbug!
Bacteria infections affect millions and cost billions to treat. Superbugs form communities on surfaces making infections harder to remedy. Novel super biomaterials are being developed by our research partners at University of Nottingham to prevent bacterial biofilms forming on surfaces, and recent clinical trials are showing promise in reducing bacterial infections.
Scales of Resistance
Imaging Antibiotic Resistance from the global to the microbial!
Scales of Resistance is a collaboration between our research partners at the University of Nottingham, and the Artists Daniel Alexander and ScanLAB PROJECTS. This unique film uses real image data to explore antibiotic resistance at a range of scales, from scanning electron microscope images captured at 10 microns square, to satellite images of the globe.
Worldwide, antibiotic resistance causes 700,000 deaths per year, and it has been predicted that by 2050 this number could rise to 10 million deaths per year, unless urgent and effective action is taken. Nottingham researchers have developed biomaterials that prevent biofilm formation. When these materials are used to coat medical devices that are put into the body, such as urinary and venous catheters, they prevent infection and reduce the need for antibiotics. Scales of Resistance contextualises this research in the context of the global increase in antibiotic resistance.
The Microbiome is Everywhere
Microbes are everywhere, in the soil, in the water, in our foods and even in our bodies!
Awareness of the microbiome has grown considerably in the general public over the last few years, but it is largely limited to the microbes associated with gut health. We love this video from the MicrobiomeSupport Project that explains how the microbiome is everywhere in the food system and outlines the importance of microbes for a healthy, sustainable, safe and nutritious food system.
What is Environmental Biotechnology?
Environmental biotechnology is the branch of biotechnology that addresses environmental problems, such as the removal of pollution, renewable energy generation or biomass production, by exploiting biological processes.
The Environmental Biotechnology Network is a network of academics, industry and government who have an interest in using engineered microbial systems for pollution prevention, bioremediation and resource recovery.
Edinburgh Biofilms Innovation Website
At the University of Edinburgh, several Schools, Institutes and Research Centres are conducting world-leading research around biofilms. This website contains information about the biofilms research taking place at Edinburgh, as well as a variety of outreach resources and activities.
Our #BiofilmAware campaign is all about helping people to understand what biofilms are and why biofilms are so important. If you want to get involved and support our campaign visit our #BiofilmAware hub to find out more.