Nanoplasmonics for Real-Time and Label-Free Monitoring of Microbial Biofilm Formation

Riccardo Funari, Nikhil Bhalla, Kang Yu Chu, Bill Söderström, Amy Q. Shen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Microbial biofilms possess intrinsic resistance against conventional antibiotics and cleaning procedures; thus, a better understanding of their complex biological structures is crucial in both medical and industrial applications. Existing laboratory methodologies have focused on macroscopic and mostly indirect characterization of mechanical and microbiological properties of biofilms adhered on a given substrate. However, the kinetics underlying the biofilm formation is not well understood, while such information is critical to understanding how drugs and chemicals influence the biofilm formation. Herein, we report the use of localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) for real-time, label-free monitoring of E. coli biofilm assembly on a nanoplasmonic substrate consisting of gold mushroom-like structures. Our LSPR sensor is able to capture the signatures of biofilm formation in real-time by measuring the wavelength shift in the LSPR resonance peak with high temporal resolution. We employ this sensor feature to elucidate how biofilm formation is affected by different drugs, including conventional antibiotics (kanamycin and ampicillin) as well as rifapentine, a molecule preventing cell adhesion yet barely affecting bacterial viability and vitality. Due to its flexibility and simplicity, our LSPR based platform can be used on a wide variety of clinically relevant bacteria, thus representing a valuable tool in biofilm characterization and drug screening.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1499-1509
Number of pages11
JournalACS Sensors
Issue number8
Early online date31 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 24 Aug 2018


  • antibiotics
  • biofilms
  • drug screening
  • E. coli
  • LSPR
  • real-time monitoring


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