Mathematical modeling of biofilm structure with a hybrid differential- discrete cellular automaton approach

Cristian Picioreanu, Mark C.M. Van Loosdrecht, Joseph J. Heijnen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

409 Scopus citations


A hybrid differential-discrete mathematical model has been used to simulate biofilm structures (surface shape, roughness, porosity) as a result of microbial growth in different environmental conditions. In this study, quantitative two- and three-dimensional models were evaluated by introducing statistical measures to characterize the complete biofilm structure, both the surface structure and volume structure. The surface enlargement, coefficient of roughness, fractal dimension of surface, biofilm compactness, and solids hold-up were found to be good measures of biofilm structure complexity. Among many possible factors affecting the biofilm structure, the influence of biomass growth in relation to the diffusive substrate transport was investigated. Porous biofilms, with many channels and voids between the 'finger-like' or 'mushroom' outgrowth, were obtained in a substrate- transport-limited regime. Conversely, compact and dense biofilms occurred in systems limited by the biomass growth rate and not by the substrate transfer rate. The surface complexity measures (enlargement, roughness, fractal dimension) all increased with increased transport limitation, whereas the volume measures (compactness, solid hold-up) decreased, showing the change from a compact and dense to a highly porous and open biofilm.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-116
Number of pages16
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 5 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biotechnology


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