Turbulence accelerates the growth of drinking water biofilms

Tsagkari, E. and Sloan, W.T. (2018) Turbulence accelerates the growth of drinking water biofilms. Bioprocess and Biosystems Engineering, 41(6), pp. 757-770. (doi: 10.1007/s00449-018-1909-0) (PMID:29428998) (PMCID:PMC5958169)

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Biofilms are found at the inner surfaces of drinking water pipes and, therefore, it is essential to understand biofilm processes to control their formation. Hydrodynamics play a crucial role in shaping biofilms. Thus, knowing how biofilms form, develop and disperse under different flow conditions is critical in the successful management of these systems. Here, the development of biofilms after 4 weeks, the initial formation of biofilms within 10 h and finally, the response of already established biofilms within 24-h intervals in which the flow regime was changed, were studied using a rotating annular reactor under three different flow regimes: turbulent, transition and laminar. Using fluorescence microscopy, information about the number of microcolonies on the reactor slides, the surface area of biofilms and of extracellular polymeric substances and the biofilm structures was acquired. Gravimetric measurements were conducted to characterise the thickness and density of biofilms, and spatial statistics were used to characterise the heterogeneity and spatial correlation of biofilm structures. Contrary to the prevailing view, it was shown that turbulent flow did not correlate with a reduction in biofilms; turbulence was found to enhance both the initial formation and the development of biofilms on the accessible surfaces. Additionally, after 24-h changes of the flow regime it was indicated that biofilms responded to the quick changes of the flow regime. Overall, this work suggests that different flow conditions can cause substantial changes in biofilm morphology and growth and specifically that turbulent flow can accelerate biofilm growth in drinking water.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Tsagkari, Dr Erifyli and Sloan, Professor William
Authors: Tsagkari, E., and Sloan, W.T.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Engineering
College of Science and Engineering > School of Engineering > Infrastructure and Environment
Journal Name:Bioprocess and Biosystems Engineering
ISSN (Online):1615-7605
Published Online:10 February 2018
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 The Authors
First Published:First published in Bioprocess and Biosystems Engineering 41(6):757-770
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
621351Synthetic Biology applications to Water Supply and RemediationSteven BeaumontEngineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)EP/K038885/1VPO VICE PRINCIPAL RESEARCH & ENTERPRISE