Relevance of biofilms for the biodeterioration of surfaces of polymeric materials*

  • Flemming H
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Deterioration of polymeric materials is caused by adhering microorganisms that colonize their surfaces, forming biofilms; thus, biodeterioration is a biofilm pro- blem. Biofilms consist of microorganisms embedded in a polymer matrix, attached to surfaces of all kind. Structure and function of synthetic polymeric materials can be damaged by biofilms in various ways, among these: (1) by coat- ing the surface, masking surface properties and contaminating adjacent media such as water by released microorganisms; (2) by increasing the leaching of additives and monomers out of the polymer matrix by microbial degradation; (3) by attack by enzymes or radicals of biological origin to polymer and additives; leading to both embrittlement and loss of mechanical stability; (4) by accumu- lating water and penetrating the polymer matrix with microbial filaments, causing swelling and increased conductivity; and (5) by excretion of lipophilic microbial pigments that lead to unwanted colours in the polymer. Direct and indirect damage as caused bv these five mechanisms can be very high.

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  • Hans-Curt Flemming

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