The morphology of biofilms received much attention in the last years. Several concepts to explain the development of biofilm structures have been proposed. We believe that biofilm structure formation depends on physical as well as general and specific biological factors. The physical factors (e.g. governing substrate transport) as well as general biological factors such as growth yield and substrate conversion rates are the basic factors governing structure formation. Specific strain dependent factors will modify these, giving a further variation between different biofilm systems. Biofilm formation seems to be primarily dependent on the interaction between mass transport and conversion processes. When a biofilm is strongly diffusion limited it will tend to become a heterogeneous and porous structure. When the conversion is the rate-limiting step, the biofilm will tend to become homogenous and compact. On top of these two processes, detachment processes play a significant role. In systems with a high detachment (or shear) force, detachment will be in the form of erosion, giving smoother biofilms. Systems with a low detachment force tend to give a more porous biofilm and detachment occurs mainly by sloughing. Biofilm structure results from the interplay between these interactions (mass transfer, conversion rates, detachment forces) making it difficult to study systems taking only one of these factors into account.
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