Role of bacterial adhesion in the microbial ecology of biofilms in cooling tower systems

Yang Liu, Wei Zhang, Tadas Sileika, Richard Warta, Nicholas P. Cianciotto, Aaron Packman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


The fate of the three heterotrophic biofilm forming bacteria, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Flavobacterium sp. in pilot scale cooling towers was evaluated both by observing the persistence of each species in the recirculating water and the formation of biofilms on steel coupons placed in each cooling tower water reservoir. Two different cooling tower experiments were performed: a short-term study (6 days) to observe the initial bacterial colonization of the cooling tower, and a long-term study (3 months) to observe the ecological dynamics with repeated introduction of the test strains. An additional set of batch experiments (6 days) was carried out to evaluate the adhesion of each strain to steel surfaces under similar conditions to those found in the cooling tower experiments. Substantial differences were observed in the microbial communities that developed in the batch systems and cooling towers. P. aeruginosa showed a low degree of adherence to steel surfaces both in batch and in the cooling towers, but grew much faster than K. pneumoniae and Flavobacterium in mixed-species biofilms and ultimately became the dominant organism in the closed batch systems. However, the low degree of adherence caused P. aeruginosa to be rapidly washed out of the open cooling tower systems, and Flavobacterium became the dominant microorganism in the cooling towers in both the short-term and long-term experiments. These results indicate that adhesion, retention and growth on solid surfaces play important roles in the bacterial community that develops in cooling tower systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-253
Number of pages13
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2009


  • Bacterial growth rate
  • Bacterial initial adhesion
  • Biofilm formation
  • Cooling tower systems
  • Microbial community
  • Pilot scale

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Water Science and Technology


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