The Return of Biofilm: Studying the light and the dark side of bio-electrochemical interactions between biofilms and surfaces


Location: 210 DeBartolo Hall

Almost 150 years ago the first biological solutions for a sustainable management of municipal wastewater were based on microbial biofilms. Technological advances in reactor design, material science, analytical tools and a better understanding of extracellular electron transport mechanisms (EET) allow us to visualize a next generation of biofilm-based technologies for water treatment. Bio-electrochemical interactions between bacteria and surfaces are the special interest for different applications in environmental sciences and engineering. Microbial electrochemical technologies (METs) emerge as good candidates not only to improve the sustainability of current wastewater treatment systems, but also to develop biotechnological solutions for new water challenges, such as metals, acid streams, and emerging contaminants. However, the EET is also strong in the dark side: bioelectrochemical interactions are also related to bio-corrosion processes and the deterioration of our coastal, marine and water infrastructure.  In this seminar, different applications of METs developed at PUC for treating chlorate, arsenic and acid mine drainage affected sites will be presented, together with the interdisciplinary study of marine corrosion and the development of environmentally friendly strategies to avoid biofilm formation and the subsequent material deterioration.


Dr. Ignacio Vargas is Associate Professor at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile in the Department of Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering. His work is focused on bio-electrochemical interactions between microbial biofilms and surfaces. Main projects of his research group are related with biocorrosion of marine and water infrastructure, microbial electrochemical technologies for wastewater treatment and the biogeochemistry/biotreatment of arsenic, perchlorate, and chlorate.


This event is sponsored by the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences.