Evaluating trends in biofilm density using the UMCCA model

Chrysi S. Laspidou, Bruce E. Rittmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


We present a series of modeling cases that illustrate the trends described by the unique features of the unified multiple-component cellular automaton (UMCCA) model for a heterogeneous, two-dimensional biofilm. The outputs of the UMCCA model show five general trends. (1) The concentration profiles for the two soluble microbial products are opposite the profile for original substrate. (2) The top of the biofilm is dominated by active biomass and EPS, while the bottom is dominated by residual inert biomass. Within the top layers, active biomass has a much higher concentration than EPS. (3) The top of all biofilm is quite "fluffy," while the bottom is dense. (4) The peak of the composite density does not correspond to the peak of active biomass. (5) All biomass types show considerable local heterogeneity. The series of cases also indicate what conditions lead to particular characteristics observed in some biofilms. Biofilm clusters are promoted by substrate limitation, a high detachment rate, or strong consolidation. A high biofilm density is associated with an old biofilm, which is favored by a low substrate concentration, a high detachment rate, and strong consolidation. Old biofilms also can develop low-density pockets near the substratum, a possible cause of sloughing. Local heterogeneity is generally related to the same factors that cause a high density. We also solved the UMCCA model for conditions similar to the experiments of Bishop et al. (Water Sci. Technol. 31(1) (1995) 143), who measured the total biomass density in layers from the substratum. The model outputs captured all the major trends in the experimental data: the overall thickness and density of biofilms increase with time, and the total biomass density is 5-10 times greater near the substratum than near the top of the biofilm. Furthermore, the model indicates that the residual inert biomass becomes denser toward the substratum, a trend observed experimentally; the UMCCA model suggests that this trend is due to the combined effects of consolidation and inert biomass having a larger maximum density.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3362-3372
Number of pages11
JournalWater Research
Issue number14-15
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Biofilm
  • Clusters
  • Consolidation
  • Density
  • Detachment
  • EPS
  • Inert biomass
  • Modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


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