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.
The interaction of oil and sediment in the environment determines, to a large extent, the trajectory and fate of oil. Using confocal microscope imaging techniques to obtain detailed 3D structures of oil–particle aggregates (OPAs) formed in turbulent flows, we elucidated a new mechanism of particle attachment, whereby the particles behave as projectiles penetrating the oil droplets to depths varying from ∼2 to 10 μm due to the hydrodynamic forces in the water. This mechanism results in a higher attachment of particles on oil in comparison with adsorption, as commonly assumed. The projectile hypothesis also explains the fragmentation of oil droplets with time, which occurred after long hours of mixing, leading to the formation of massive OPA clusters. Various lines of inquiry strongly suggested that protruding particles get torn from oil droplets and carry oil with them, causing the torn particles to be amphiphillic so that they contribute to the formation of massive OPAs of smaller oil droplets (<∼5–10 μm). Low particle concentration resulted in large, irregularly shaped oil blobs over time, the deformation of which without fragmentation could be due to partial coverage of the oil droplet surface by particles. The findings herein revealed a new pathway for the fate of oil in environments containing non-negligible sediment concentrations.
During the Deepwater Horizon disaster, a substantial fraction of the 600,000–900,000 tons of released petroleum liquid and natural gas became entrapped below the sea surface, but the quantity entrapped and the sequestration mechanisms have remained unclear. We modeled the buoyant jet of petroleum liquid droplets, gas bubbles, and entrained seawater, using 279 simulated chemical components, for a representative day (June 8, 2010) of the period after the sunken platform’s riser pipe was pared at the wellhead (June 4–July 15). The model predicts that 27% of the released mass of petroleum fluids dissolved into the sea during ascent from the pared wellhead (1,505 m depth) to the sea surface, thereby matching observed volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions to the atmosphere. Based on combined results from model simulation and water column measurements, 24% of released petroleum fluid mass became channeled into a stable deep-water intrusion at 900- to 1,300-m depth, as aqueously dissolved compounds (∼23%) and suspended petroleum liquid microdroplets (∼0.8%). Dispersant injection at the wellhead decreased the median initial diameters of simulated petroleum liquid droplets and gas bubbles by 3.2-fold and 3.4-fold, respectively, which increased dissolution of ascending petroleum fluids by 25%. Faster dissolution increased the simulated flows of water-soluble compounds into biologically sparse deep water by 55%, while decreasing the flows of several harmful compounds into biologically rich surface water. Dispersant injection also decreased the simulated emissions of VOCs to the atmosphere by 28%, including a 2,000-fold decrease in emissions of benzene, which lowered health risks for response workers.