Biodegradation during contaminant transport in porous media: 1. Mathematical analysis of controlling factors

Mark L. Brusseau, Lily H. Xie, Li Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Interest in coupled biodegradation and transport of organic contaminants has expanded greatly in the past several years. In a system in which biodegradation is coupled with solute transport, the magnitude and rate of biodegradation is influenced not only by properties of the microbial population and the substrate, but also by hydrodynamic properties (e.g., residence time, dispersivity). By nondimensionalizing the coupled-process equations for transport and nonlinear biodegradation, we show that transport behavior is controlled by three characteristic parameters: the effective maximum specific growth rate, the relative half-saturation constant, and the relative substrate-utilization coefficient. The impact on biodegradation and transport of these parameters, which constitute various combinations of factors reflecting the influences of biotic and hydraulic properties of the system, are examined numerically. A type-curve diagram based on the three characteristic parameters is constructed to illustrate the conditions under which steady and non-steady transport is observed, and the conditions for which the linear, first-order approximation is valid for representing biodegradation. The influence of constraints to microbial growth and substrate utilization on contaminant transport is also briefly discussed. Additionally, the impact of biodegradation, with and without biomass growth, on spatial solute distribution and moments is examined. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-293
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Apr 15 1999


  • Contaminant transport
  • Coupled biodegradation
  • Porous media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology


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