Microbial biofilms and mineral precipitation commonly co-occur in engineered water systems, such as cooling towers and water purification systems, and both decrease process performance. Microbial biofilms are extremely challenging to control and eradicate. We previously showed that in situ biomineralization and the precipitation and deposition of abiotic particles occur simultaneously in biofilms under oversaturated conditions. Both processes could potentially alter the essential properties of biofilms, including susceptibility to biocides. However, the specific interactions between mineral formation and biofilm processes remain poorly understood. Here we show that the susceptibility of biofilms to chlorination depends specifically on internal transport processes mediated by biomineralization and the accumulation of abiotic mineral deposits. Using injections of the fluorescent tracer Cy5, we show that Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms are more permeable to solutes after in situ calcite biomineralization and are less permeable after the deposition of abiotically precipitated calcite particles. We further show that biofilms are more susceptible to chlorine killing after biomineralization and less susceptible after particle deposition. Based on these observations, we found a strong correlation between enhanced solute transport and chlorine killing in biofilms, indicating that biomineralization and particle deposition regulate biofilm susceptibility by altering biocide penetration into the biofilm. The distinct effects of in situ biomineralization and particle deposition on biocide killing highlight the importance of understanding the mechanisms and patterns of biomineralization and scale formation to achieve successful biofilm control.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Food Science
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology