The paper introduces a fully automated cultivation and monitoring tool to study biofilm development in replicate experiments operated in parallel. To gain a fundamental understanding of the relation between cultivation conditions and biofilm characteristics (e.g., structural, mechanical) a monitoring setup allowing for the standardization of methods is required. Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is an imaging modality ideal for biofilms since it allows for the monitoring of structure in real time. By integrating an OCT device into the open-source robotic platform EvoBot, a fully automated monitoring platform for investigating biofilm development in several flow cells at once was realized. Different positioning scenarios were tested and revealed that the positioning accuracy is within the optical resolution of the OCT. On that account, a reliable and accurate monitoring of biofilm development by means of OCT has become possible. With this robotic platform, reproducible biofilm experiments including a statistical analysis are achievable with only a small investment of operator time. Furthermore, a number of structural parameters calculated within this study confirmed the necessity to perform replicate biofilm cultivations.
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