The quantity of a chemical constituent of a cell, typically nitrogen, can be determined and then used to calculate the biomass. For example, cells can be treated with sulfuric acid, which converts cellular nitrogen to ammonia. The amount of ammonia can then be easily assayed. Because cells are typically composed of 14% nitrogen, the biomass can be mathematically derived from the amount of ammonia released.
Products of microbial growth can be used to estimate the number of microorganisms or, more commonly, to confirm their presence. These products include acids, gases such as CO2, and ATP.
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