Heterotrophic biofilms were cultivated in long-term experiments in biofilm tube reactors. During the biofilm cultivation the substrate loading of glucose was kept constant while the hydrodynamic conditions were changed stepwise. To describe the behaviour of the biofilm structure under these varying flow conditions the mass transfer and transport at the bulk/biofilm interface and inside the biofilm was investigated with oxygen microelectrodes. Furthermore, the biofilm density was used to describe the biofilm compactness before and after the change of the hydrodynamic condition.
The obtained results show that the biofilm density and also the substrate flux decreased with decreasing flow velocity in the bulk phase. Additionally the slope of the oxygen concentration profiles decreased and the thickness of the concentration boundary layer increased. On the other hand, increasing the flow velocity in the bulk phase led both to a higher biofilm density and a higher maximum substrate flux. The biofilm surface became more homogenous and the thickness of the concentration boundary layer decreased. The time for adaptation of the biofilm structure after changing the hydrodynamic conditions ranged between 1 and 3 weeks.