Lattice-Boltzmann modeling of contaminant degradation by chemotactic bacteria: Exploring the formation and movement of bacterial bands

Wei Long, Markus Hilpert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


We developed a three-dimensional Lattice-Boltzmann (LB) model to simulate the biodegradation of a dissolved substrate, toward which bacteria exhibit chemotaxis. The model was verified by comparing simulations to capillary assay experiments performed elsewhere. In these assays, a capillary containing an aqueous solution, with initially uniformly distributed dissolved naphthalene, was dipped into a reservoir containing Pseudomonas putida, a microorganism that exhibits chemotaxis to naphthalene. These experiments were also performed with additional glass beads present in the capillary and reservoir. The simulations show that a fraction of the bacteria separates from the reservoir to form a band that moves with constant speed into the capillary while metabolizing the naphthalene. We also used the LB model to explore band formation in a porous medium under groundwater flow conditions. If a bacterial slug is injected, two bacterial bands form; one moves upstream and the other moves downstream. The magnitudes of the two band velocities, as measured relative to the pore water velocity, are identical. Bacteria injected in excess are advected downstream in a fluid parcel containing no substrate. Our simulations suggest that the bioremediation of a contaminant plume in groundwater can potentially be enhanced by the injection of chemotactic bacteria. We also derived a correlation that predicts the number of bacteria in a band that separates from a semi-infinite bacterial slug in a domain containing substrate that is initially uniformly distributed. This correlation allows estimation of the optimal number of bacteria that needs to be added to a substrate-filled domain, such that the number of bacteria in the band is maximum while simultaneously avoiding the injection of excess bacteria that do not make it into the band.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberW09415
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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