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J Biomech. 2010 Apr 19;43(6):1039-47. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2009.12.019. Epub 2010 Jan 29.

Flow field analysis in a compliant acinus replica model using particle image velocimetry (PIV).

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Rochester Institute of Technology, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Kate Gleason College of Engineering, 76 Lomb Memorial Drive, Building 9, Rochester, NY 14623, USA.


Inhaled particles reaching the alveolar walls have the potential to cross the blood-gas barrier and enter the blood stream. Experimental evidence of pulmonary dosimetry, however, cannot be explained by current whole lung dosimetry models. Numerical and experimental studies shed some light on the mechanisms of particle transport, but realistic geometries have not been investigated. In this study, a three dimensional expanding model including two generations of respiratory bronchioles and five terminal alveolar sacs was created from a replica human lung cast. Flow visualization techniques were employed to quantify the fluid flow while utilizing streamlines to evaluate recirculation. Pathlines were plotted to track the fluid motion and estimate penetration depth of inhaled air. This study provides evidence that the two generations immediately proximal to the terminal alveolar sacs do not have recirculating eddies, even for intense breathing. Results of Peclet number calculations indicate that substantial convective motion is present in vivo for the case of deep breathing, which significantly increases particle penetration into the alveoli. However, particle diffusion remains the dominant mechanism of particle transport over convection, even for intense breathing because inhaled particles do not reach the alveolar wall in a single breath by convection alone. Examination of the velocity fields revealed significant uneven ventilation of the alveoli during a single breath, likely due to variations in size and location. This flow field data, obtained from replica model geometry with realistic breathing conditions, provides information to better understand fluid and particle behavior in the acinus region of the lung.

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