Stoodley, Paul, Lewandowski, Z., Boyle, J.D. and Lappin-Scott, H.M.
Structural deformation of bacterial biofilms caused by short-term fluctuations in fluid shear: an in situ investigation of biofilm rheology
Biotechnology and Bioengineering, 65, (1), . (doi:10.1002/(SICI)1097-0290(19991005)65:1<83::AID-BIT10>3.0.CO;2-B).
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The physical properties (rheology) of biofilms will determine the shape and mechanical stability of the biofilm structure and consequently affect both mass transfer and detachment processes. Biofilm viscoelasticity is also thought to increase fluid energy losses in pipelines. Yet there is very little information on the rheology of intact biofilms. This is due in part to the difficulty in using conventional testing techniques. The size and nature of biofilms makes them difficult to handle, while removal from a surface destroys the integrity of the sample. We have developed a method which allowed us to conduct simple stress-strain and creep experiments on mixed and pure culture biofilms in situ by observing the structural deformations caused by changes in hydrodynamic shear stress (tau(w)). The biofilms were grown under turbulent pipe flow (flow velocity (u) = 1 m/s, Reynolds number (Re) = 3600, tau(w) = 5. 09 N/m(2)) for between 12 and 23 days. The resulting biofilms were heterogeneous and consisted of filamentous streamers that were readily deformed by changes in tau(w). At tau(w) of 10.11 N/m(2) the streamers were flattened so that the thickness was reduced by 25%. We estimated that the shear modulus (G) of the mixed culture biofilm was 27 N/m(2) and the apparent elastic modulus (E(app)) of both biofilms was in the range of 17 to 40 N/m(2). The biofilms behaved like elastic and viscoelastic solids below the tau(w) at which they were grown but behaved like viscoelastic fluids at elevated tau(w). The implications of these results for fluid energy losses and the processes of mass transfer and detachment are discussed.
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