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Biotechnol Bioeng. 1998 Aug 5;59(3):302-9.

Microelectrode measurements of local mass transport rates in heterogeneous biofilms.

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Center for Biofilm Engineering, 409 Cobleigh Hall, P.O. Box 173980, Montana State University-Bozeman, Bozeman, Montana 59717-3980, USA.


Microelectrodes were used to measure oxygen profiles and local mass transfer coefficient profiles in biofilm clusters and interstitial voids. Both profiles were measured at the same location in the biofilm. From the oxygen profile, the effective diffusive boundary layer thickness (DBL) was determined. The local mass transfer coefficient profiles provided information about the nature of mass transport near and within the biofilm. All profiles were measured at three different average flow velocities, 0.62, 1.53, and 2.60 cm sec-1, to determine the influence of flow velocity on mass transport. Convective mass transport was active near the biofilm/liquid interface and in the upper layers of the biofilm, independent of biofilm thickness and flow velocity. The DBL varied strongly between locations for the same flow velocities. Oxygen and local mass transfer coefficient profiles collected through a 70 micrometer thick cluster revealed that a cluster of that thickness did not present any significant mass transport resistance. In a 350 micrometer thick biofilm cluster, however, the local mass transfer coefficient decreased gradually to very low values near the substratum. This was hypothetically attributed to the decreasing effective diffusivity in deeper layers of biofilms. Interstitial voids between clusters did not seem to influence the local mass transfer coefficients significantly for flow velocities of 1.53 and 2.60 cm sec-1. At a flow velocity of 0.62 cm sec-1, interstitial voids visibly decreased the local mass transfer coefficient near the bottom.

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