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J Microbiol Methods. 2008 Aug;74(2-3):74-81. doi: 10.1016/j.mimet.2008.04.004. Epub 2008 May 27.

Miniaturized calorimetry - a new method for real-time biofilm activity analysis.

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  • 1TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Institute of Physical Chemistry, Freiberg, Germany.


The partial dissipation of Gibbs energy as heat reflects the metabolic dynamic of biofilms in real time and may also allow quantitative conclusions about the chemical composition of the biofilm via Hess' law. Presently, the potential information content of heat is hardly exploited due to the low flexibility, the low throughput and the high price of conventional calorimeters. In order to overcome the limitations of conventional calorimetry a miniaturized calorimeter for biofilm investigations has been evaluated. Using four thermopiles a heat production with spatial and temporal resolutions of 2.5 cm(-1) and 2 s(-1) could be determined. The limit of detection of the heat flow measurement was 20 nW, which corresponds to the cell density of an early stage biofilm (approx. 3x10(5) cells cm(-2)). By separating biofilm cultivation from the actual heat measurement, a high flexibility and a much higher throughput was achieved if compared with conventional calorimeters. The approach suggested allows cultivation of biofilms in places of interest such as technological settings as well as in nature followed by highly efficient measurements in the laboratory. Functionality of the miniaturized calorimeter was supported by parallel measurements with confocal laser scanning microscopy and a fiber optic based oxygen sensor using the oxycaloric equivalent (-460 kJ mol-O2(-1)).

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