In this study, we measured oxygen concentration in biofilms in one dimension in field conditions and in three dimensions in laboratory conditions by using a robust oxygen microsensor in combination with an automation and data acquisition system. The biofilms were on the discs of rotating biological contactors treating domestic wastewater. The results of this study provide experimental evidence on oxygen distribution in wastewater biofilms and on biofilm structure. (1) The three dimensional measurements of oxygen concentration in biofilms revealed “pockets” of oxygen in deep sections of biofilms. In these isolated "pockets," located 600-760 mm from the biofilm surface, dissolved oxygen concentration was as high as 1 mg/L. This depth of oxygen diffusion is deeper than what was determined based on one dimensional measurements. (2) The heterogeneity of oxygen distribution was related to the surface structure of biofilms. The structure of the biofilm surface affected the diffusion boundary layer over the surface and, in turn, the oxygen diffusion and distribution inside biofilms. (3) Oxygen concentration in biofilms changed generally from a high degree of heterogeneity near the biofilm surface to a low degree of heterogeneity in deep sections of biofilms, indicating a cell-clusters-like structure near the surface and a more compact base layer close to the substratum.

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