Mass transfer enhancement in moving biofilm structures

Danial Taherzadeh, Cristian Picioreanu, Harald Horn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Biofilms are layers of microbial cells growing on an interface and they can form highly complex structures adapted to a wide variety of environmental conditions. Biofilm streamers have a small immobile base attached to the support and a flexible tail elongated in the flow direction, which can vibrate in fast flows. Herein we report numerical results for the role of the periodical movement of biofilm streamers on the nutrient uptake and in general on the solute mass transfer enhancement due to flow-induced oscillations. We developed what to our knowledge is a novel two-dimensional fluid-structure interaction model coupled to unsteady solute mass transport and solved the model using the finite element method with a moving mesh. Results demonstrate that the oscillatory movement of the biofilm tail significantly increases the substrate uptake. The mass transfer coefficient is the highest in regions close to the streamer tip. The reason for substrate transfer enhancement is the increase in speed of tip movement relative to the surrounding liquid, thereby reducing the thickness of the mass transfer boundary layer. In addition, we show that the relative mass transfer enhancement in unsteady conditions compared with the rigid static structure is larger at higher flow velocities, and this relative increase favors a more flexible structure. © 2012 Biophysical Society.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1483-1492
Number of pages10
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 4 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Generated from Scopus record by KAUST IRTS on 2022-09-13

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics


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