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Idling Time of Motile Bacteria Contributes to Retardation and Dispersion in Sand Porous Medium

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journal contribution
posted on 01.05.2011, 00:00 by Jun Liu, Roseanne M. Ford, James A. Smith
The motility of microorganisms affects their transport in natural systems by altering their interactions with the solid phase of the soil matrix. To assess the effect of these interactions on transport parameters, a series of breakthrough curves (BTCs) for motile and nonmotile bacteria, including E. coli and P. putida species, were measured from a homogeneously packed sand column under three different interstitial velocities of 1 m/d, 5 m/d, and 10 m/d. BTCs for the nonmotile bacteria were nearly identical for all three flow rates, except that the recovery percentage at 1 m/d was reduced by 5% compared to the higher flow rates. In contrast, for the motile bacteria, the recovery percentages were not affected by flow rate, but their BTCs exhibited a higher degree of retardation and dispersion as the flow velocity decreased, which was consistent with increased idling times of the motile strains. The smooth-swimming mutant E. coli HCB437, which is unable to change its swimming direction after encountering the solid surfaces and thus has the largest idling time, also exhibited the greatest degree of retardation and dispersion. All of the experimental observations were compared to results from an advection-dispersion transport model with three fitting parameters: retardation factor (R), longitudinal dispersivity (αL), and attachment rate coefficient (katt). In addition, the single-collector efficiency (η0) and collision efficiency (α) were calculated according to the colloid filtration theory (CFT), and confirmed that motile bacteria had lower collision efficiencies than nonmotile bacteria. This is consistent with previously reported observations that motile bacteria can avoid attachment to a solid surface by their active swimming capabilities. By quantifying the effect of bacterial motility on various transport parameters, more robust fate and transport models can be developed for decision-making related to environmental remediation strategies and risk assessment.