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Bioengineering 2018, 5(1), 15; doi:10.3390/bioengineering5010015

Theoretical Insight into the Biodegradation of Solitary Oil Microdroplets Moving through a Water Column

1
Department of Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
2
School of Environmental Engineering, Technical University of Crete, 73100 Chania, Greece
3
Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Patras, 26504 Rion Achaia, Greece
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 6 January 2018 / Revised: 5 February 2018 / Accepted: 9 February 2018 / Published: 12 February 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Catalytic Biofilms)
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Abstract

In the aftermath of oil spills in the sea, clouds of droplets drift into the seawater column and are carried away by sea currents. The fate of the drifting droplets is determined by natural attenuation processes, mainly dissolution into the seawater and biodegradation by oil-degrading microbial communities. Specifically, microbes have developed three fundamental strategies for accessing and assimilating oily substrates. Depending on their affinity for the oily phase and ability to proliferate in multicellular structures, microbes might either attach to the oil surface and directly uptake compounds from the oily phase, or grow suspended in the aqueous phase consuming solubilized oil, or form three-dimensional biofilms over the oil–water interface. In this work, a compound particle model that accounts for all three microbial strategies is developed for the biodegradation of solitary oil microdroplets moving through a water column. Under a set of educated hypotheses, the hydrodynamics and solute transport problems are amenable to analytical solutions and a closed-form correlation is established for the overall dissolution rate as a function of the Thiele modulus, the Biot number and other key parameters. Moreover, two coupled ordinary differential equations are formulated for the evolution of the particle size and used to investigate the impact of the dissolution and biodegradation processes on the droplet shrinking rate. View Full-Text
Keywords: biofilm; crude oil; modeling; oil spill; droplet cloud; droplet dissolution; droplet biodegradation; Sherwood number; mass transfer; compound droplet model biofilm; crude oil; modeling; oil spill; droplet cloud; droplet dissolution; droplet biodegradation; Sherwood number; mass transfer; compound droplet model
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Kapellos, G.E.; Paraskeva, C.A.; Kalogerakis, N.; Doyle, P.S. Theoretical Insight into the Biodegradation of Solitary Oil Microdroplets Moving through a Water Column. Bioengineering 2018, 5, 15.

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