Engineered antifouling microtopographies: kinetic analysis of the attachment of zoospores of the green alga Ulva to silicone elastomers

Microtopography has been demonstrated as an effective deterrent to biofouling. The majority of published studies are fixed-time assays that raise questions regarding the kinetics of the attachment process. This study investigated the time-dependent attachment density of zoospores of Ulva, in a laboratory assay, on a micropatterned and smooth silicone elastomer. The attachment density of zoospores was reduced on average 70–80% by the microtopography relative to smooth surfaces over a 4 h exposure. Mapping the zoospore locations on the topography revealed that they settled preferentially in specific, recessed areas of the pattern. The kinetic data fit, with high correlation (r2 > 0.9), models commonly used to describe the adhesion of bacteria to surfaces. The grouping of spores on the microtopography indicated that the pattern inhibited the ability of attached spores to recruit neighbors. This study demonstrates that the antifouling mechanism of topographies may involve disruption of the cooperative effects exhibited by fouling organisms such as Ulva.