Co-Transport of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons by Motile Microorganisms Leads to Enhanced Mass Transfer under Diffusive Conditions.

Dorthea Gilbert, Hans H. Jakobsen, Anne Winding, Philipp Mayer

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Abstract

The environmental chemodynamics of hydrophobic organic chemicals (HOCs) are often rate-limited by diffusion in stagnant boundary layers. This study investigated whether motile microorganisms can act as microbial carriers that enhance mass transfer of HOCs through diffusive boundary layers. A new experimental system was developed that allows (1) generation of concentration gradients of HOCs under the microscope, (2) exposure and direct observation of microorganisms in such gradients, and (3) quantification of HOC mass transfer. Silicone O-rings were integrated into a Dunn chemotaxis chamber to serve as sink and source for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). This resulted in stable concentration gradients in water (>24 h). Adding the model organism Tetrahymena pyriformis to the experimental system enhanced PAH mass transfer up to hundred-fold (benzo[a]pyrene). Increasing mass transfer enhancement with hydrophobicity indicated PAH co-transport with the motile organisms. Fluorescence microscopy confirmed such transport. The effective diffusivity of T. pyriformis, determined by video imaging microscopy, was found to exceed molecular diffusivities of the PAHs up to four-fold. Cell-bound PAH fractions were determined to range from 28% (naphthalene) to 92% (pyrene). Motile microorganisms can therefore function as effective carriers for HOCs under diffusive conditions and might significantly enhance mobility and availability of HOCs.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology (Washington)
Volume48
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)4368−4375
Number of pages7
ISSN0013-936X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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