Biofilm thickness variability investigated with a laser triangulation sensor

W.J.H. Okkerse, S.P.P. Ottengraf, Baukje Osinga - Kuipers

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    Abstract

    Measurement of the surface roughness and thickness of biological films is laborious and usually destructive, thus hampering research in this area. We developed a laser triangulation sensor (LTS) set-up for the fast and nondestructive measurement of these biofilm parameters during growth. Using LTS measurements, the morphological development of a dichloromethane-(DCM) degrading biofilm cultured on a wetted-wall column was studied. The measurements show that the biofilm develops faster at the entrance of the reactor. The biofilm consisted of a base film in which microbial colonies were embedded. The biofilm-surface area gradually increased by 23% compaerd to the bare surface due to the formation of a large number of these colonies. The number and shape of these colonies were followed in time. Using LTS measurements, biofilms distinctly different in surface roughness could be distinguished in a laboratory trickling filter removing DCM from a waste gas. The consequences of the observed surface characteristics for the reaction-diffusion process in the biofilm and for the falling film hydrodynamics are discussed.

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