Corrosion associated with microorganisms has been recognized for over 50 years and yet the study of microbiologically influenced corrosion (MIC) is relatively new. MIC can occur in diverse environments and is not limited to aqueous corrosion under submerged conditions, but also takes place in humid atmospheres.
Biofouling of industrial water systems is the phenomenon whereby surfaces in contact with water are colonized by microorganisms, which are ubiquitous in our environment. However, the economic implications of biofouling in industrial water systems are much greater than many people realize. In a survey conducted by the National Association of Corrosion Engineers of the United States ten years ago, it was found that many corrosion engineers did not accept the role of bacteria in corrosion, and many of them that did, could not recognize and mitigate the problem.
Biofouling can be described in terms of its effects on processes and products such as material degradation (bio-corossion), product contamination, mechanical blockages, and impedance of heat transfer. Microorganisms distinguish themselves from other industrial water contaminants by their ability to utilize available nutrient sources, reproduce, and generate intra- and extracellular organic and inorganic substances in water. A sound understanding of the molecular and physiological activities of the microorganisms involved is necessary before strategies for the long term control of biofouling can be format. Traditional water treatment strategies however, have largely failed to address those factors that promote biofouling activities and lead to biocorrosion.
Some of the major developments in recent years have been a redefinition of biofilm architecture and the realization that MIC of metals can be best understood as biomineralization.