Steady streaming: A key mixing mechanism in low-Reynolds-number acinar flows

Physics of Fluids (Impact Factor: 2.04). 04/2011; 23(4):41902. DOI: 10.1063/1.3567066
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Study of mixing is important in understanding transport of submicron sized particles in the acinar region of the lung. In this article, we investigate transport in view of advective mixing utilizing Lagrangian particle tracking techniques: tracer advection, stretch rate and dispersion analysis. The phenomenon of steady streaming in an oscillatory flow is found to hold the key to the origin of kinematic mixing in the alveolus, the alveolar mouth and the alveolated duct. This mechanism provides the common route to folding of material lines and surfaces in any region of the acinar flow, and has no bearing on whether the geometry is expanding or if flow separates within the cavity or not. All analyses consistently indicate a significant decrease in mixing with decreasing Reynolds number (Re). For a given Re, dispersion is found to increase with degree of alveolation, indicating that geometry effects are important. These effects of Re and geometry can also be explained by the streaming mechanism. Based on flow conditions and resultant convective mixing measures, we conclude that significant convective mixing in the duct and within an alveolus could originate only in the first few generations of the acinar tree as a result of nonzero inertia, flow asymmetry, and large Keulegan-Carpenter (K(C)) number.

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