Interactions between bubbles and microorganisms

Bubbles are ubiquitous in biological environments, emerging during the complex dynamics of waves breaking in the open oceans or being intentionally formed in bioreactors. From formation, through motion, until death, bubbles play a critical role in the oxygenation and mixing of natural and artificial ecosystems. However, their life is also greatly influenced by the environments in which they emerge. This interaction between bubbles and microorganisms is a subtle affair in which surface tension plays a critical role. Indeed, it shapes the role of bubbles in mixing or oxygenating microorganisms, but also determines how microorganisms affect every stage of the bubble’s life. In this review, we guide the reader through the life of a bubble from birth to death, with particular attention to the microorganism–bubble interaction as viewed through the lens of fluid dynamics.


Poulain, S. and Bourouiba, L. (2018) Biosurfactants change the thinning of contaminated bubbles at bacteria-laden water interfaces. Physical Review Letters. accepted

Walls, P., Bird, J. and Bourouiba, L. (2014) Moving with bubbles: a review of the interactions between bubbles and the microorganisms that surround them. Integrative and Comparative Biology. 54:1014–1025. PDF

Bourouiba, L. and Bush, J. W. M. (2013) Drops and bubbles in the environment. Handbook of Environmental Fluid Dynamics, Volume I: Ed: H.J.S. Fernando, CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Book Inc. BookPDF