Petri Dish Generation III

Andrei P. Sommer 1Dan Zhu 1,2Friedrich Gagsteiger 2Hans-Jörg Fecht 1

1. Ulm University, Institute of Micro and Nanomaterials, Albert-Einstein-Allee 47, Ulm 89081, Germany
2. IVF-Center Ulm, Einsteinstraße 59, Ulm 89077, Germany


The tissue culture dish is the most basic tool in life science laboratories. The glass version, hence in vitro, and polystyrene version (disposable), were introduced by Petri (1887) [1] and Fisk (1956) [2], respectively. Polystyrene Petri dishes stand at the beginning of biomaterial tests (cell culture, animal model, clinical trial), where they are used to interrogate cells, but also at the beginning of human life, i.e., in vitro fertilization (IVF). With the exception of geometrical modifications and hydrophilic conversion, the polystyrene Petri dish remained virtually unchanged. Its biodurability was never challenged. By modelling the cooperative behaviour [3] of anchorage-dependent cells used as living probes, we proposed that the surface of polystyrene Petri dishes becomes soft in aqueous media and that the effect facilitates the establishment of a nanoscopic layer of reactive oxygen species (ROS) [4]. For clarification the surface hardness of polystyrene Petri dishes was probed by nanoindentation, in air and in water. The measurements in water were facilitated by a sample holder designed for extended measurements in aqueous media [5]. It was found that water softens the surface of polystyrene Petri dishes to a depth of ca. 100 nm. The surface softening is a precondition for the establishment of a stable nanoscopic layer of ROS, as can be deduced from physicochemical considerations. Previous models focusing on possible mechanisms of formation of primordial biopolymers indicated that natural hydrogenated diamonds may have provided the optimal condition to foster the chemical reactions believed to have given rise to life on Earth [6]. This picture was complemented by the experimental finding that cell performance was better on moderately hydrogenated nanocrystalline diamond surfaces than on polystyrene (Petri dish) [4]. There is observational evidence that the hydrogenation is stable in aqueous environments [7,8]. Because 99% of IVF procedures are conducted in polystyrene Petri dishes we eventually decided to test a new type of Petri dishes for IVF: Quartz glass Petri dishes coated with a transparent film of moderately hydrogenated nanocrystalline diamond (Figure 1). Their applicability was tested in a sperm cell model using polystyrene Petri dishes as controls [9]. The nanocrystalline diamond coated Petri dishes (Petri dish generation III) preserved the performance of the sperm cells 20% better than polystyrene. Our result could help improve the quality/reliability of in vitro work.


Figure 1. Petri dish: nanocrystalline diamond coated quartz glass (left) - polystyrene (right).


1. Petri RJ. Eine kleine Modification des Koch´schen Plattenverfahrens. Centralblatt für Bacteriologie und Parasitenkunde. 1, 279-280, 1887.

2. Fisk RT. Disposable culturing device. U.S. Patent 2,874,091, 1956.

3. Chen QZ, Harding SE, Ali NN, Lyon AR, Boccaccini, AR. Biomaterials in cardiac tissue engineering: Ten years of research survey. Mat. Sci. Eng. R. 59, 1-37, 2008.

4. Sommer AP, Zhu D, Scharnweber T, Fecht HJ. On the social behaviour of cells. J. Bionic Eng. 7, 1-5, 2010. [Nat. Med. 16, 503, 2010].

5. Sommer AP, Haddad MK, Fecht HJ. It is Time for a Change: Petri Dishes Weaken Cells J. Bionic Eng. 9, 353-357, 2012.

6. Sommer AP, Zhu D, Fecht HJ. Genesis on diamonds. Cryst. Growth Des. 8, 2628-2629, 2008. [].

7. Sommer AP, Zhu D, Franke RP, Fecht HJ. Biomimetics: Learning from diamonds. J. Mat. Res. 23, 3148-3152, 2008.

8. Zhu D, Zhang L, Ruther RE, Hamers RJ. Photo-illuminated diamond as a solid-state source of solvated electrons in water for nitrogen reduction. Nat. Mater. 2013 (in print).

9. Sommer AP, Zhu D, Gagsteiger F, Fecht HJ. Sperm Performance Better on Diamond than on Polystyrene. MRS [Science, 339, 774, 2013].

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Presentation: Invited oral at Nano and Advanced Materials Workshop and Fair, by Andrei P. Sommer
See On-line Journal of Nano and Advanced Materials Workshop and Fair

Submitted: 2013-07-07 22:49
Revised:   2013-07-07 23:27
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