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This paper is dedicated to Professor P.R. Norton on the occasion of his 75th birthday, in honor of his profound contributions to Surface Science. In this work, we investigate how plasma bonding of a germanium ATR crystal to a microfluidic device can affect biofilm growth and development. Using attenuated total reflection Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, individual measurements were made at the attachment surface of growing Pseudomonas fluorescens biofilms in adjacent flow channels during parallel experiments. Biofilm growth in channels with ATR surfaces exposed to air plasma exhibited a faster accumulation of a biomolecular conditioning layer compared to unexposed channels. As well, in-line microscopy revealed enhanced bulk biofilm growth in plasma-treated channels. Since the surface chemistry the Ge ATR was only partially recovered to its original state during the three day experiments, it is believed that the enhanced biofilm growth was ultimately due effects of plasma exposure. It is proposed that observations are transferable to microfluidic devices with sealing layers from other hard surfaces such as glass, silicon and plastic due to their ability to retain surface functionalization after plasma exposure. Plasma treatment could, therefore, offer a route to faster start up times for bioreactors, but could also result in unexpected artifacts in other studies.

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This article originally appeared in Surface Science 676, 2018, Pages 56-60.

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