Transport of microorganisms into cellulose nanofiber mats

K. A. Rieger, R. Thyagarajan, M. E. Hoen, H. F. Yeung, D. M. Ford, J. D. Schiffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Nanofiber mats hold potential in numerous applications that interface with microorganisms. However, a fundamental study that quantifies the transport of microorganisms into three-dimensional microenvironments, such as nanofiber mats, has not yet been conducted. Here, we evaluate the microbial uptake capacity of three hydrophilic cellulose sorbents, a high surface area electrospun nanofiber mat, as well as two commercial products, a macrofibrous Fisherbrand fabric and an adsorptive Sartorius membrane. The small average fiber diameter (∼1.0 μm) and large porosity of the nanofiber mats enabled a 21 times greater collection of Escherichia coli K12 per milligram of material than the macrofibrous Fisherbrand controls and 220 times more than the Sartorius controls. In most cases, the exposure time of the nanofiber mats to the microorganisms was sufficient to reach a quasi-equilibrium state of microbial uptake, allowing the calculation of an adsorption coefficient (Keq) that relates the concentration of cells in the sorbent to the concentration of cells remaining in solution. The Keq of the nanofiber mats was 420, compared to 9.2 and 0.67 for the Fisherbrand and Sartorius controls, respectively. In addition to E. coli, we studied the cellulose nanofiber mat uptake of two additional medically relevant and distinct microorganisms, Gram-negative Pseudomonas aeruginosa PA01 and Gram-positive Staphylococcus aureus MW2, to probe whether microorganism removal is bacteria-specific. The high uptake capacity of all three bacteria by the nanofiber mats indicates that microbial uptake is independent of the microorganism's adhesion mechanism. This work suggests that cellulose nanofiber mat "sponges" are a green platform technology that has the potential to remove detrimental microorganisms from wounds, trap bacteria within a protective military textile, or remediate contaminated water.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24438-24445
Number of pages8
JournalRSC Advances
Issue number29
StatePublished - 2016


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