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Electrokinetic Control of Bacterial Deposition and Transport

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journal contribution
posted on 05.05.2015, 00:00 by Jinyi Qin, Xiaohui Sun, Yang Liu, Tom Berthold, Hauke Harms, Lukas Y. Wick
Microbial biofilms can cause severe problems in technical installations where they may give rise to microbially influenced corrosion and clogging of filters and membranes or even threaten human health, e.g. when they infest water treatment processes. There is, hence, high interest in methods to prevent microbial adhesion as the initial step of biofilm formation. In environmental technology it might be desired to enhance bacterial transport through porous matrices. This motivated us to test the hypothesis that the attractive interaction energy allowing cells to adhere can be counteracted and overcome by the shear force induced by electroosmotic flow (EOF, i.e. the water flow over surfaces exposed to a weak direct current (DC) electric field). Applying EOF of varying strengths we quantified the deposition of Pseudomonas fluorescens Lp6a in columns containing glass collectors and on a quartz crystal microbalance. We found that the presence of DC reduced the efficiency of initial adhesion and bacterial surface coverage by >85%. A model is presented which quantitatively explains the reduction of bacterial adhesion based on the extended Derjaguin, Landau, Verwey, and Overbeek (XDLVO) theory of colloid stability and the EOF-induced shear forces acting on a bacterium. We propose that DC fields may be used to electrokinetically regulate the interaction of bacteria with surfaces in order to delay initial adhesion and biofilm formation in technical installations or to enhance bacterial transport in environmental matrices.