Real-time Bioluminescent Imaging of Spatiotemporal Variation of Microbial Retention During Transport Through Porous Media Under Variably Saturated Flow Conditions


Liqiong Yang, Jia Kang, Xijuan Chen, Steven A. Ripp, William P. Johnson, Jie Zhuang,


This study investigated the transport and retention of bioluminescent Escherichia coli strain 652T7 under different pore water velocities (8.7 cm h−1 and 13.0 cm h−1) and pore water saturations (85% and 100%) utilizing a non-invasive, real-time bioluminescent imaging technique. Under saturated flow conditions, the concentrations of retained bioluminescent E. coli 652T7 decreased exponentially with distance from the source at the lower velocity but decreased non-exponentially at the higher velocity. Under unsaturated flow conditions, pore water velocity had no significant effect on bacterial breakthrough concentration; however, the concentrations of retained cells were maximal at a significant distance from the source (non-monotonic). The distance from source of the maximum concentration increased from 2.4-cm at 1.05 pore volumes to 4.3-cm at 3.15 pore volumes, indicating slow translation of bacterial down-gradient under unsaturated flow conditions. That conditions were modestly unfavorable to attachment at the solid-water interface (SWI) was indicated by deposition rate coefficients being greater (by a factor of four) for simulations versus experiments, and by significant repulsive barriers to attachment at both the SWI (260 kT) and the air–water interface (AWI, fully repulsive). The inferred slow translation under unsaturated flow conditions therefore reflects either accumulation without arrest in the secondary minimum at the SWI and/or capillary interaction at the AWI. This non-invasive bioluminescence method yielded real-time quantitative observation of bacterial distribution from source and demonstrated contrasting transport behaviors previously obtained solely via more laborious methods with limited spatio-temporal observation.

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Yang L, Kang J, Chen X, Ripp S, Zhuang J. 2021. Real-time bioluminescent imaging of spatiotemporal variation of microbial retention during transport through porous media under variably saturated flow conditions. Journal of Hydrology 601:126603.