Vibration at structural resonance frequency of hydrophilic substrates enhances biofilm removal

William C. Ballance, Inkyu Oh, Yang Lai, Mohamed Elhebeary, Taher Saif, Yuhang Hu, Hyunjoon Kong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Biological fouling damages both human health and industry by causing infection, corrosion, structural failure, and drag on marine ships. Current efforts to clean bio-fouled surfaces by externally applying intensive mechanical energy often result in relapsed cell growth. Therefore, this study examines the extent that cell-structure interactions are orchestrated by vibration frequency, voltage-induced energy input mode, and surface energy to clean bio-fouled surfaces. This study was conducted with a tough polyacrylamide gel-coated polypropylene substrate attached to a flexible dielectric actuator that can vibrate when an oscillatory voltage is applied. We found that the maximum biofilm removal occurs by vibrating the gel-coated surface at the structural resonance frequency using a square wave input voltage. In addition, tuning the surface energy of the substrate was necessary for biofilm removal by decreasing the bacterial adhesive force. The findings from this study can be broadly applicable to assembling various advanced anti-fouling medical and industrial devices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number126950
JournalSensors and Actuators, B: Chemical
StatePublished - Nov 15 2019


  • Bacterial adhesion
  • Biofilm
  • Biofouling
  • Dielectric elastomer actuators
  • Tough hydrogel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Instrumentation
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Metals and Alloys
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Materials Chemistry


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