The effect of electromagnetic fields, from two commercially available water treatment devices, on bacterial culturability

Water Sci Technol. 2016;73(6):1371-7. doi: 10.2166/wst.2015.616.


Commercially available pulsed-electromagnetic field (PEMF) devices are currently being marketed and employed to ostensibly manage biofouling. The reliable application and industry acceptance of such technologies require thorough scientific validation - and this is currently lacking. We have initiated proof-of-principle research in an effort to investigate whether such commercially available PEMF devices can influence the viability (culturability) of planktonic bacteria in an aqueous environment. Thus two different commercial PEMF devices were investigated via a static (i.e. non-flowing) treatment system. 'Healthy' Escherichia coli cells, as well as cultures that were physiologically compromised by silver nano-particles, were exposed to the PEMFs from both devices under controlled conditions. Although relatively minor, the observed effects were nevertheless statistically significant and consistent with the hypothesis that PEMF exposure under controlled conditions may result in a decrease in cellular viability and culturability. It has also been observed that under certain conditions bacterial growth is actually stimulated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / classification*
  • Bacteriological Techniques*
  • Bioreactors
  • Electromagnetic Fields*
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid / methods*
  • Waste Water / chemistry*
  • Water Purification / methods*


  • Waste Water