A new simulator is developed for the prediction of the rate and pattern of growth of biofilms in granular porous media. The biofilm is considered as a heterogeneous porous material that exhibits a hierarchy of length scales. An effective-medium model is used to calculate the local hydraulic permeability and diffusion coefficient in the biofilm, as functions of the local geometric and physicochemical properties. The Navier-Stokes equations and the Brinkman equation are solved numerically to determine the velocity and pressure fields within the pore space and the biofilm, respectively. Biofilm fragments become detached if they are exposed to shear stress higher than a critical value. The detached fragments re-enter into the fluid stream and move within the pore space until they exit from the system or become reattached to downstream grain or biofilm surfaces. A Lagrangian-type simulation is used to determine the trajectories of detached fragments. The spatiotemporal distributions of a carbon source, an electron acceptor and a cell-to-cell signaling molecule are determined from the numerical solution of the governing convection-diffusion-reaction equations. The simulator incorporates growth and apoptosis kinetics for the bacterial cells and production and lysis kinetics for the EPS. The specific growth rate of active bacterial cells depends on the local concentrations of nutrients, mechanical stresses, and a quorum sensing mechanism. Growth-induced deformation of the biofilms is implemented with a cellular automaton approach. In this work, the spatiotemporal evolution of biofilms in the pore space of a 2D granular medium is simulated under high flow rate and nutrient-rich conditions. Transient changes in the pore geometry caused by biofilm growth lead to the formation of preferential flowpaths within the granular porous medium. The decrease of permeability caused by clogging of the porous medium is calculated and is found to be in qualitative agreement with published experimental results. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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