Original Paper

Bioprocess and Biosystems Engineering

, Volume 36, Issue 11, pp 1787-1796

First online:

Influence of flow rate variation on the development of Escherichia coli biofilms

  • J. M. R. MoreiraAffiliated withLEPAE, Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Porto
  • , J. S. TeodósioAffiliated withLEPAE, Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Porto
  • , F. C. SilvaAffiliated withCEFT, Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Porto
  • , M. SimõesAffiliated withLEPAE, Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Porto
  • , L. F. MeloAffiliated withLEPAE, Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Porto
  • , F. J. MergulhãoAffiliated withLEPAE, Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Porto Email author 

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Abstract

This work investigates the effect of flow rate variation on mass transfer and on the development of Escherichia coli biofilms on a flow cell reactor under turbulent flow conditions. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) was used to assess the applicability of this reactor for the simulation of industrial and biomedical biofilms and the numerical results were validated by streak photography. Two flow rates of 374 and 242 L h−1 (corresponding to Reynolds numbers of 6,720 and 4,350) were tested and wall shear stresses between 0.183 and 0.511 Pa were predicted in the flow cell reactor. External mass transfer coefficients of 1.38 × 10−5 and 9.64 × 10−6 m s−1 were obtained for the higher and lower flow rates, respectively. Biofilm formation was favored at the lowest flow rate because shear stress effects were more important than mass transfer limitations. This flow cell reactor generates wall shear stresses that are similar to those found in some industrial and biomedical settings, thus it is likely that the results obtained on this work can be used in the development of biofilm control strategies in both scenarios.

Keywords

Biofilms Escherichia coli Computational fluid dynamics Mass transfer Shear stress