Dr Yuxiu (Phil) Chen
Academic and research departmentsFaculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Soft Matter Group.
A biocoating confines non-growing, metabolically-active bacteria within a synthetic colloidal polymer (i.e. latex) film. Bacteria encapsulated inside biocoatings can perform useful functions, such as a biocatalyst in wastewater treatment. A biocoating needs to have high a permeability to allow a high rate of mass transfer for rehydration and the transport of both nutrients and metabolic products. It therefore requires an interconnected porous structure. Tuning the porosity architecture is a challenge. Here, we exploited rigid tubular nanoclays (halloysite) and non-toxic latex particles (with a relatively high glass transition temperature) as the colloidal “building blocks” to tailor the porosity inside biocoatings containing Escherichia coli bacteria as a model organism. Electron microscope images revealed inefficient packing of the rigid nanotubes and proved the existence of nanovoids along the halloysite/polymer interfaces. Single-cell observations using confocal laser scanning microscopy provided evidence for metabolic activity of the E. coli within the biocoatings through the expression of yellow fluorescent protein. A custom-built apparatus was used to measure the permeability of a fluorescein sodium salt in the biocoatings. Whereas there was no measurable permeability in a coating made from only latex particles, the permeability coefficient of the composite biocoatings increased with increasing halloysite content up to a value of 110-4 m h-1. The effects of this increase in permeability was demonstrated through a specially-developed resazurin reduction assay. Bacteria encapsulated in halloysite composite biocoatings had statistically significant higher metabolic activities in comparison to bacteria encapsulated in a non-optimized coating made from latex particles alone.
Abstract We hereby report for the first time on the design, manufacturing and testing of a three-dimensional (3D) nearly-periodic, locally resonant phononic crystal (PnC). Most of the research effort on PnCs and metamaterials has been focused on the enhanced dynamic properties arising from their periodic design. Lately, additive manufacturing techniques have made a number of designs with intrinsically complex geometries feasible to produce. These recent developments have led to innovative solutions for broadband vibration attenuation, with a multitude of potential engineering applications. The recently introduced concept of rainbow metamaterials and PnCs has shown a significant potential for further expanding the spectrum of vibration attenuation in such structures by introducing a gradient profile for the considered unit cells. Given the above, it is expected that designing non-periodic PnCs will attract significant attention from scientists and engineers in the years to come. The proposed nearly-periodic design is based on cuboid blocks connected by curved beams, with internal voids in the blocks being implemented to adjust the local masses and generate a 3D rainbow PnC. Results show that the proposed approach can produce lightweight PnCs of a simple, manufacturable design exhibiting attenuation bandwidths more than two times larger than the equivalent periodic designs of equal mass.
Biofilm bioreactors are attracting growing interest in the wastewater industry, as they allow higher cell densities and thus higher reaction rates compared to conventional bioreactors. However, some commonly used nitrifying bacteria, such as Nitrosomonas europaea, are slow-growing and need a prolonged period of time to develop a mature biofilm. Here, a biocoating or "living paint" is introduced, which is a synthetic biofilm made from a colloidal polymer (synthetic latex) binder encapsulating viable nitrifying bacteria at high density. Conventionally, the film formation of biocoatings is achieved by drying a bacteria/latex mixture. However, this fabrication is detrimental to the viability of the encapsulated bacteria because of the osmotic stress induced by desiccation. A nondesiccating film formation process is presented for biocoatings, which exploits two colloid science phenomena: coagulation and wet sintering. Desiccation-sensitive, nitrifying bacteria are employed in the biocoatings to convert NH4+ to NO2- and then NO3-. These biocoatings have a conversion rate (NO2- and NO3- production) of 3 mg N g(-1) d(-1) that is five times higher than in conventionally desiccated biocoatings. The reactivity continues over a period of 1 month. The processing method for these living paints is transformative for wastewater treatment and other applications using delicate, desiccation-sensitive microorganisms.