Dynamics of bacterial streamers induced clogging in microfluidic devices†
Using a microfabricated porous media mimic platform, we investigated the clogging dynamics of bacterial biomass that accumulated in the device due to the formation of bacterial streamers. Particularly, we found the existence of a distinct clogging front which advanced via pronounced ‘stick-slip’ of the viscoelastic bacterial biomass over the solid surface of the micro pillar. Thus, the streamer, the solid surface, and the background fluidic media defined a clear three-phase front influencing these advancing dynamics. Interestingly, we also found that once the clogging became substantial, contrary to a static homogenous saturation state, the clogged mimic exhibited an instability phenomena marked by localized streamer breakage and failure leading to extended water channels throughout the mimic. These findings have implications for design and fabrication of biomedical devices and membrane-type systems such as porous balloon catheters, porous stents and filtration membranes prone to bacteria induced clogging as well as understanding bacterial growth and proliferation in natural porous media such as soil and rocks.