The biofilm chemical and physical properties in engineered systems play an important role in governing pathogen transmission, fouling facilities, and corroding metal surfaces. Here, we investigated how simulated drinking water biofilm chemical composition, structure, and stiffness responded to the common scale control practice of adjusting divalent ions and adding polyphosphate. Magnetomotive optical coherence elastography (MM-OCE), a tool developed for diagnosing diseased tissues, was used to determine biofilm stiffness in this study. MM-OCE, together with atomic force microscopy (AFM), revealed that the biofilms developed from a drinking water source with high divalent ions were stiffer compared to biofilms developed either from the drinking water source with low divalent ions or the water containing a scale inhibitor (a polyphosphate). The higher stiffness of biofilms developed from the water containing high divalent ions was attributed to the high content of calcium carbonate, suggested by biofilm composition examination. In addition, by examining the biofilm structure using optical coherence tomography (OCT), the highest biofilm thickness was found for biofilms developed from the water containing the polyphosphate. Compared to the stiff biofilms developed from the water containing high divalent ions, the soft and thick biofilms developed from the water containing polyphosphate will be expected to have higher detachment under drinking water flow. This study suggested that water chemistry could be used to predict the biofilm properties and subsequently design the microbial safety control strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number15
Journalnpj Biofilms and Microbiomes
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Microbiology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


Dive into the research topics of 'Effect of divalent ions and a polyphosphate on composition, structure, and stiffness of simulated drinking water biofilms'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this