Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Vol.117, No.5, 1458-1469, 2020
Microbial growth rates and local external mass transfer coefficients in a porous bed biofilm system measured by F-19 magnetic resonance imaging of structure, oxygen concentration, and flow velocity
F-19 nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) oximetry and H-1 NMR velocimetry were used to noninvasively map oxygen concentrations and hydrodynamics in space and time in a model packed bed biofilm system in the presence and absence of flow. The development of a local oxygen sink associated with a single gel bead inoculated with respiring Escherichia coli was analyzed with a phenomenological model to determine the specific growth rate of the bacteria in situ, returning a value (0.66 hr(-1)) that was close to that measured independently in planktonic culture (0.62 hr(-1)). The decay of oxygen concentration in and around the microbiologically active bead was delayed and slower in experiments conducted under continuous flow in comparison to no-flow experiments. Concentration boundary layer thicknesses were determined and Sherwood numbers calculated to quantify external mass transfer resistance. Boundary layers were thicker in no-flow experiments compared to experiments with flow. Whereas the oxygen concentration profile across a reactive biofilm particle was symmetric in no-flow experiments, it was asymmetric with respect to flow direction in flow experiments with Sherwood numbers on the leading edge (Sh = 7) being larger than the trailing edge (Sh = 3.5). The magnitude of the experimental Sh was comparable to values predicted by a variety of correlations. These spatially resolved measurements of oxygen distribution in a geometrically complex model reveal in innovative detail the local coupling between microbial growth, oxygen consumption, and external mass transfer.