Three-dimensional biofilm model with individual cells and continuum EPS matrix

Erik Alpkvist, Cristian Picioreanu, Mark C.M. Van Loosdrecht, Anders Heyden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

160 Scopus citations


An innovative type of biofilm model is derived by combining an individual description of microbial particles with a continuum representation of the biofilm matrix. This hybrid model retains the advantages of each approach, while providing a more realistic description of the temporal development of biofilm structure in two or three spatial dimensions. The general model derivation takes into account any possible number of soluble components. These are substrates and metabolic products, which diffuse and react in the biofilm within individual microbial cells. The cells grow, divide, and produce extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) in a multispecies model setting. The EPS matrix is described by a continuum representation as incompressible viscous fluid, which can expand and retract due to generation and consumption processes. The cells move due to a pushing mechanism between cells in colonies and by an advective mechanism supported by the EPS dynamics. Detachment of both cells and EPS follows a continuum approach, whereas cells attach in discrete events. Two case studies are presented for model illustration. Biofilm consolidation is explained by shrinking due to EPS and cell degradation processes. This mechanism describes formation of a denser layer of cells in the biofilm depth and occurrence of an irregularly shaped biofilm surface under nutrient limiting conditions. Micro-colony formation is investigated by growth of autotrophic microbial colonies in an EPS matrix produced by heterotrophic cells. Size and shape of colonies of ammonia and nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (NOB) are comparatively studied in a standard biofilm and in biofilms aerated from a membrane side. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)961-979
Number of pages19
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 5 2006
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biotechnology


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