Detachment of fungal spores from moldy surfaces and the subsequent aerosolization can lead to adverse health effects. Spore aerosolization occurs when the forces for aerosolization exceed the binding forces of spores with their colonies. The threshold force to detach a spore from a growing colony remains unknown. This investigation measured the detachment of spores of Aspergillus niger from a colony using an atomic force microscope (AFM). The spores were first affixed to the cantilever of the AFM with ultraviolet curing glue, and then, the colony was moved downward until the spores detached. The threshold detachment forces were inferred from the deflection of the cantilever. In addition, the spores were aerosolized in a wind tunnel by a gradual increase of the blowing air speed. The forces measured by the AFM were compared with the hydrodynamic forces for aerosolization. The AFM measurements revealed that a force of 3.27 ± 0.25 nN was required to detach a single spore from the 4-day-old colony, while 1.98 ± 0.13 nN was sufficient for the 10-day-old colony. Slightly smaller detachment forces were observed by the AFM than were determined by the aerosolization tests.
atomic force microscope ; aerosolization; fungi; growth age; spore; wind tunnel