A model of fluid-biofilm interaction using a burger material law


A two-dimensional finite element model of the biofilm response to flow was developed. The numerical code sequentially coupled the fluid dynamics of turbulent, incompressible flow with the mechanical response of a single hemispherical biofilm cluster (100 µm) attached to the flow boundary. A non-linear Burger material law was used to represent the viscoelastic response of a representative microbial biofilm. This constitutive law was incorporated into the numerical model as a Prony series representation of the biofilm's relaxation modulus. Model simulations illuminated interesting details of this fluid-structure interaction. Simulations revealed that softer biofilms (characterized by lower elastic moduli) were highly susceptible to lift forces and consequently were subject to even greater drag forces found higher in the velocity field. A bimodal deformation path due to the two Burger relaxation times was also observed in several simulations. This suggested that interfacial biofilm may be most susceptible to hydrodynamically induced detachment during the initial relaxation time. This result may prove useful in developing removal strategies. Additionally, plots of lift versus drag suggested that the deformation paths taken by viscoelastic biofilms are largely insensitive to specific material coefficients. Softer biofilms merely seem to follow the same path (as a stiffer biofilm) at a faster rate. These relationships may be useful in estimating the hydrodynamic forces acting on an attached biofilm based on changes in scale and cataloged material properties.




Towler BW, Cunningham A, Stoodley P, McKittrick L, "A model of fluid-biofilm interaction using a burger material law," Biotechnol Bioeng 2007 96(2):259-271
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