In situ biofilm quantification in bioelectrochemical systems by using optical coherence tomography

Sam D. Molenaar, Tom Sleutels, Joao Pereira, Matteo Iorio, Casper Borsje, Julian A. Zamudio, Francisco Fabregat-Santiago, Cees J.N. Buisman, Annemiek ter Heijne*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Detailed studies of microbial growth in bioelectrochemical systems (BESs) are required for their suitable design and operation. Here, we report the use of optical coherence tomography (OCT) as a tool for in situ and noninvasive quantification of biofilm growth on electrodes (bioanodes). An experimental platform is designed and described in which transparent electrodes are used to allow real-time, 3D biofilm imaging. The accuracy and precision of the developed method is assessed by relating the OCT results to well-established standards for biofilm quantification (chemical oxygen demand (COD) and total N content) and show high correspondence to these standards. Biofilm thickness observed by OCT ranged between 3 and 90 μm for experimental durations ranging from 1 to 24 days. This translated to growth yields between 38 and 42 mgCODbiomass gCODacetate 1 at an anode potential of 0.35 V versus Ag/AgCl. Time-lapse observations of an experimental run performed in duplicate show high reproducibility in obtained microbial growth yield by the developed method. As such, we identify OCT as a powerful tool for conducting in-depth characterizations of microbial growth dynamics in BESs. Additionally, the presented platform allows concomitant application of this method with various optical and electrochemical techniques.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2171-2178
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jul 2018


  • 3d imaging
  • Bioelectrochemical systems
  • Biofilms
  • Microbial growth
  • Tomography


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