Bacteria are often discussed as active colloids, self-propelled organisms whose collective motion can be studied in the context of non-equilibrium statistical mechanics. In such studies, the behavior of bacteria confined to interfaces or in the proximity of an interface plays an important role. For instance, many studies have probed collective behavior of bacteria in quasi two-dimensional systems such as soap films. Since fluid interfaces can adsorb surfactants and other materials, the stress and velocity boundary conditions at interfaces can alter bacteria motion; hydrodynamic studies of interfaces with differing boundary conditions are reviewed. Also, bacteria in bulk can become trapped at or near fluid interfaces, where they colonize and form structures comprising secretions like exopolysaccharides, surfactants, living and dead bacteria, thereby creating Films of Bacteria at Interfaces (FBI). The formation of FBI is discussed at air-water, oil-water, and water-water interfaces, with an emphasis on film mechanics, and with some allusion to genetic functions guiding bacteria to restructure fluid interfaces. At air-water interfaces, bacteria form pellicles or interfacial biofilms. Studies are reviewed that reveal that pellicle material properties differ for different strains of bacteria, and that pellicle physicochemistry can act as a feedback mechanism to regulate film formation. At oil-water interfaces, a range of FBI form, depending on bacteria strain. Some bacteria-laden interfaces age from an initial active film, with dynamics dominated by motile bacteria, through viscoelastic states, to form an elastic film. Others remain active with no evidence of elastic film formation even at significant interface ages. Finally, bacteria can adhere to and colonize ultra-low surface tension interfaces such as aqueous-aqueous systems common in food industries. Relevant literature is reviewed, and areas of interest for potential application are discussed, ranging from health to bioremediation.
Bacteria at fluid interfaces endure physical and chemical stresses unique to these highly asymmetric environments. The responses of Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 and PA14 to a hexadecane-water interface are compared. PAO1 cells form elastic films of bacteria, excreted polysaccharides and proteins, whereas PA14 cells move actively without forming an elastic film. Studies of PAO1 mutants show that, unlike solid-supported biofilms, elastic interfacial film formation occurs in the absence of flagella, pili, or certain polysaccharides. Highly induced genes identified in transcriptional profiling include those for putative enzymes and a carbohydrate metabolism enzyme, alkB2; this latter gene is not upregulated in PA14 cells. Notably, PAO1 mutants lacking the alkB2 gene fail to form an elastic layer. Rather, they form an active film like that formed by PA14. These findings demonstrate that genetic expression is altered by interfacial confinement, and suggest that the ability to metabolize alkanes may play a role in elastic film formation at oil-water interfaces.
Field data from the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) suggested that oxidation of gas compounds stimulated biodegradation of oil compounds in the deep sea plume. We performed experiments with local seawater from a Norwegian fjord to examine if the presence of dissolved gas compounds (methane, ethane and propane) affected biodegradation of volatile oil compounds, and if oil compounds likewise affected gas compound oxidation. The results from the experiment showed comparable oil compound biotransformation rates in seawater at 5 °C between seawater with and without soluble gases. Gas oxidation was not affected by the presence of volatile oil compounds. Contrary to DWH deep sea plume data, propane oxidation was not faster than methane oxidation. These data may reflect variations between biodegradation of oil and gas in seawater environments with different history of oil and gas exposure.
A cross-sectionally averaged model is used to study several aspects of the physics of a bubble plume rising in a stratified quiescent liquid. Scaling analyses for the peel height, at which the plume momentum vanishes, and the neutral height, at which its average density equals the ambient density, are presented. Contrary to a widespread practice in the literature, it is argued that the neutral height cannot be identified with the experimentally reported intrusion height. Recognizing this difference provides an explanation of the reason why the intrusion height is found so frequently to be much above predictions and brings the theoretical results in line with observations. The mathematical model depends on three dimensionless parameters, some of which are related to the inlet conditions at the plume source. Their influence on the peel and neutral heights is illustrated by means of physical considerations, scaling analyses, and numerical results.