Experimental data showed that high-speed microsprays can effectively disrupt biofilms on their support substratum, producing a variety of dynamic reactions such as elongation, displacement, ripple formation, and fluidization. However, the mechanics underlying the impact of high-speed turbulent flows on biofilm structure is complex under such extreme conditions, since direct measurements of viscosity at these high shear rates are not possible using dynamic testing instruments. Here, we used computational fluid dynamics simulations to assess the complex fluid interactions of ripple patterning produced by high-speed turbulent air jets impacting perpendicular to the surface of Streptococcus mutans biofilms, a dental pathogen causing caries, captured by high-speed imaging. The numerical model involved a two-phase flow of air over a non-Newtonian biofilm, whose viscosity as a function of shear rate was estimated using the Herschel-Bulkley model. The simulation suggested that inertial, shear, and interfacial tension forces governed biofilm disruption by the air jet. Additionally, the high shear rates generated by the jet impacts coupled with shear-thinning biofilm property resulted in rapid liquefaction (within milli-seconds) of the biofilm, followed by surface instability and traveling waves from the impact site. Our findings suggest that rapid shear thinning under very high shear flows causes the biofilm to behave like a fluid and elasticity can be neglected. A parametric sensitivity study confirmed that both applied force intensity (i.e., high jet nozzle air velocity) and biofilm properties (i.e., low viscosity and low air-biofilm surface tension and thickness) intensify biofilm disruption by generating large interfacial instabilities.
Bibliographical noteGenerated from Scopus record by KAUST IRTS on 2022-09-13
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