Biofouling in open recirculating cooling systems: Characterization and control of biofilms and Legionella pneumophila

Research output: ThesisDissertation (TU Delft)

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Open recirculating cooling systems have been vital elements in industry since the early 20th century. Their purpose is to release excess heat from processes through water evaporation so that production can be carried out at optimal temperature. With the global development of industrial activities such as manufacturing, electricity and chemical production, the demand for cooling capacity keeps increasing. Biofouling is one of the main phenomena negatively affecting the performance of wet cooling systems. This phenomenon leads to: (i) loss of heat transfer efficiency, (ii) clogging, (iii) microbiologically influenced corrosion, and (iv) health risk associated to the development of pathogens. Controlling bacterial growth in open recirculating cooling systems is very challenging, and is generally performed via dosage of disinfectants such as sodium hypochlorite. Due to biofouling and the increasing concerns linked to chemical consumption and water discharge, attention has been given to investigate more sustainable approaches to cooling systems operation. Knowledge on the bacterial communities, disinfection impact and biofilm composition is however limited and a more in-depth characterization of biofouling is required to effectively establish new control strategies.
The objectives of this thesis were to contribute to the available knowledge on biofouling in cooling systems and to investigate sustainable and predictable alternative operations, providing results of direct relevance to practice. Attention was given to the identification of factors selecting the microbiome of cooling water subjected to conventional operation, characterization of cooling tower biofilms without disinfection, and assessment of the impact of temperature on biofilm composition. Then, alternative approaches to biofouling control were tested at pilot-scale. Phosphorus depletion was investigated as a solution for limiting biofilm growth and high pH was considered as a Legionella pneumophila control method. These studies were performed with the use of recent analytical methods such as next generation amplicon sequencing (NGS), quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), and flow-cytometry, which allowed collection of valuable data and a better characterization of biofouling...
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Delft University of Technology
  • van Loosdrecht, M.C.M., Supervisor
  • Vrouwenvelder, J.S., Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date21 Jun 2021
Print ISBNs978-94-6366-426-4
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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