Estimation of a biofilm-specific reaction rate: kinetics of bacterial urea hydrolysis in a biofilm


James M Connolly, Benjamin Jackson, Adam P. Rothman, Isaac Klapper, Robin Gerlach


NPJ Biofilms & Microbiomes


Background/Objectives: Biofilms and specifically urea-hydrolysing biofilms are of interest to the medical community (for example, urinary tract infections), scientists and engineers (for example, microbially induced carbonate precipitation). To appropriately model these systems, biofilm-specific reaction rates are required. A simple method for determining biofilm-specific reaction rates is described and applied to a urea-hydrolysing biofilm. Methods: Biofilms were grown in small silicon tubes and influent and effluent urea concentrations were determined. Immediately after sampling, the tubes were thin sectioned to estimate the biofilm thickness profile along the length of the tube. Urea concentration and biofilm thickness data were used to construct an inverse model for the estimation of the urea hydrolysis rate. Results/Conclusions: It was found that urea hydrolysis in Escherichia coli MJK2 biofilms is well approximated by first-order kinetics between urea concentrations of 0.003 and 0.221 mol/l (0.186 and 13.3 g/l). The first-order rate coefficient (k1) was estimated to be 23.2±6.2 h−1. It was also determined that advection dominated the experimental system rather than diffusion, and that urea hydrolysis within the biofilms was not limited by diffusive transport. Beyond the specific urea-hydrolysing biofilm discussed in this work, the method has the potential for wide application in cases where biofilm-specific rates must be determined.



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