Biofilm Growth Under Elastic Confinement
Bacteria often form surface-bound communities, embedded in a self-produced extracellular matrix, called biofilms. Quantitative studies of their growth have typically focused on unconfined expansion above solid or semi-solid surfaces, leading to exponential radial growth. This geometry does not accurately reflect the natural or biomedical contexts in which biofilms grow in confined spaces. Here we consider one of the simplest confined geometries: a biofilm growing laterally in the space between a solid surface and an overlying elastic sheet. A poroelastic framework is utilised to derive the radial growth rate of the biofilm; it reveals an additional self-similar expansion regime, governed by the Poisson's ratio of the matrix, leading to a finite maximum radius, consistent with our experimental observations of growing Bacillus subtilis biofilms confined by PDMS.