Effect of low-concentration rhamnolipid biosurfactant on Pseudomonas aeruginosa transport in natural porous media

Guansheng Liu, Hua Zhong, Yongbing Jiang, Mark L. Brusseau, Jiesheng Huang, Liangsheng Shi, Zhifeng Liu, Yang Liu, Guangming Zeng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Enhanced transport of microbes in subsurface is a focus in bioaugmentation applications for remediation of groundwater. In this study, the effect of low-concentration monorhamnolipid biosurfactant on transport of Pseudomonas aeruginosa ATCC 9027 in natural porous media (silica sand and a sandy soil) with or without hexadecane as the nonaqueous phase liquids (NAPLs) was studied with miscible-displacement experiments using artificial groundwater as the background solution. Transport of two types of cells was investigated, glucose-grown and hexadecane-grown cells with lower and higher cell surface hydrophobicity (CSH), respectively. A clean-bed colloid deposition model was used to calculate deposition rate coefficients (k) for quantitative assessment on the effect of the rhamnolipid on the transport. In the absence of NAPLs, significant cell retention was observed in the sand (81% and 82% for glucose-grown and hexadecane-grown cells, respectively). Addition of low-concentration rhamnolipid enhanced cell transport, with 40 mg/L of rhamnolipid reducing retention to 50% and 60% for glucose-grown and hexadecane-grown cells, respectively. The k values for both glucose-grown and hexadecane-grown cells correlated linearly with rhamnolipid-dependent CSH quantitatively measured using a bacterial-adhesion-to-hydrocarbon method. Retention of cells by the soil was nearly complete (>99%). Forty milligrams per liter of rhamnolipid reduced the retention to 95%. The presence of NAPLs in the sand enhanced the retention of hexadecane-grown cells with higher CSH. Transport of cells in the presence of NAPLs was enhanced by rhamnolipid at all concentrations tested, and the relative enhancement was greater than in the absence of NAPLs. This study shows the importance of hydrophobic interaction on bacterial transport in natural porous media and the potential of using low-concentration rhamnolipid for facilitating cell transport in subsurface for bioaugmentation efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)361-375
Number of pages15
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • NAPLs
  • bacterial transport
  • cell surface hydrophobicity
  • retention
  • rhamnolipid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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