Complex conductivity measurements (0.1-1000 Hz) were obtained from biostimulated sand-packed columns to investigate the effect of microbial growth and biofilm formation on the electrical properties of porous media. Microbial growth was verified by direct microbial counts, pH measurements, and environmental scanning electron microscope imaging. Peaks in imaginary (interfacial) conductivity in the biostimulated columns were coincident with peaks in the microbial cell concentrations extracted from sands. However, the real conductivity component showed no discernible relationship to microbial cell concentration. We suggest that the observed dynamic changes in the imaginary conductivity (σ″) arise from the growth and attachment of microbial cells and biofilms to sand surfaces. We conclude that complex conductivity techniques, specifically imaginary conductivity measurements are a proxy indicator for microbial growth and biofilm formation in porous media. Our results have implications for microbial enhanced oil recovery, CO2 sequestration, bioremediation, and astrobiology studies.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Second Department

Biological Sciences

Keywords and Phrases

Biogeophysics; Conductivity; Biofilms; Bioremediation; Electric Fields; Microbiology; pH; Porous Materials; Scanning Electron Microscopy; Bacteria; Carbon Dioxide; Electric Conductivity; Electric Conductivity Measurement; Enhanced Recovery; Oil Well Flooding; Biofilm Formation; Complex Conductivity Measurements; Sand-packed Columns; Geosynthetic materials; Biofilm; Electrical Conductivity; Imaging Method; Porous Medium; Complex Conductivity; Conductivity Measurements; Environmental Scanning Electron Microscopes; Microbial Enhanced Oil Recoveries; Microbial Growth; Bacteria

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version

Final Version

File Type





© 2006 American Geophysical Union (AGU), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Sep 2006