Effects of pore-scale heterogeneity and transverse mixing on bacterial growth in porous media


C. Zhang, Kang, Q., Wang, X., Zilles, J., Muller, R. H., and Werth, C. J., “Effects of pore-scale heterogeneity and transverse mixing on bacterial growth in porous media,” Environmental Science & Technology, vol. 44, no. 8, pp. 3085–3092, 2010.


Microbial degradation of contaminants in the subsurface requires the availability of nutrients; this is impacted by porous media heterogeneity and the degree of transverse mixing. Two types of microfluidic pore structures etched into silicon wafers (i.e., micromodels), (i) a homogeneous distribution of cylindrical posts and (ii) aggregates of large and small cylindrical posts, were used to evaluate the impact of heterogeneity on growth of a pure culture (Delftia acidovorans) that degrades (R)-2-(2,4-dichlorophenoxy)propionate (R-2,4-DP). Following inoculation, dissolved O2 and R-2,4-DP were introduced as two parallel streams that mixed transverse to the direction of flow. In the homogeneous micromodel, biomass growth was uniform in pore bodies along the center mixing line, while in the aggregate micromodel, preferential growth occurred between aggregates and slower less dense growth occurred throughout aggregates along the center mixing line. The homogeneous micromodel had more rapid growth overall (2 times) and more R-2,4-DP degradation (9.5%) than the aggregate pore structure (5.7%). Simulation results from a pore-scale reactive transport model indicate mass transfer limitations within aggregates along the center mixing line decreased overall reaction; hence, slower biomass growth rates relative to the homogeneous micromodel are expected. Results from this study contribute to a better understanding of the coupling between mass transfer, reaction rates, and biomass growth in complex porous media and suggest successful implementation and analysis of bioremediation systems requires knowledge of subsurface heterogeneity.


Publisher's Version