Numerical studies of fluid-particle dynamics in human respiratory system

Ge, Q 2012, Numerical studies of fluid-particle dynamics in human respiratory system, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Numerical studies of fluid-particle dynamics in human respiratory system
Author(s) Ge, Q
Year 2012
Abstract  This thesis investigates particle inhalation and its deposition in the human respiratory system for therapeutic and toxicology studies. Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) techniques including the Lagrangian approach to simulate gas-particle flows based on the domain airflow are used. The Lagrangian approach is used as it tracks each individual particle and determines its fate (e.g deposition location, or escape from computational domain). This has advantages over a Eulerian approach for respiratory inhalation flows as the volume fraction of the second phase can be neglected and a disperse phase for one-way coupling can be used. However, the very first step is to simulate and detail airflow structures.

For the external airflow structures, the heat released from the human body has a significant effect on the airflow micro-environment around it in an indoor environment, which suggests that the transport and inhalation characteristics of aerosol particulates may also be affected since they are entrained by the air and their movement is dependent on the airflow field. Emphasis was put on the effect of human body heat on particle tracks. It was found that body heat causes a significant rising airflow on the downstream side of the body, which transports particles from a lower level into the breathing zone. The importance of body heat decreases with increasing indoor wind speed. Since the rising airflow exists only on the downstream side of an occupant, the occupant-wind orientation plays an important role in particle inhalation. The effect of body heat has to be taken into account when an occupant had his or her back to the wind, and the effect of body heat could be neglected when the occupant is facing the wind.

A CFD model that integrates the three aspects of contaminant exposure by including the external room, human occupant with realistic facial features, and the internal nasal-trachea airway is presented. The results from the simulations visualize the flow patterns at different contaminant concentrations. As the particles are inhaled, they are transported through the respiratory airways, where some are deposited onto surrounding mucus walls while others may navigate through the complex geometry and even reach the lung airways, causing deleterious health effects.

The studies in this thesis demonstrated that the transport and deposition of micron sized particles are dominated by its inertial property while submicron and nano sized particles are influenced by diffusion mechanisms. Studies based on an isolated model of the human nasal cavity or tracheobronchial airway tree rely on idealised inlet boundary condition imposed at the nostril or where, were a blunt, parabolic or uniform profile is applied. It is apparent that an integrated model made up of: i) room and ventilation, ii) aspiration efficiency, iii) and particle deposition efficiencies in the respiratory airway is needed. This leads to a more complete and holistic set of results, which can greatly contribute towards new knowledge in identifying preventative measures for health risk exposure assessment.

With regards to the internal airflow structures and particle inhalation, ultrafine particle deposition sites in the human nasal cavity regions often omit the paranasal sinus regions. Because of the highly diffusive nature of nanoparticles, it is conjectured that deposition by diffusion may occur in the paranasal sinuses, which may affect the residual deposition fraction that leaves the nasal cavity. Thus a nasal-sinus model was created for analysis. In general there was little flow passing through the paranasal sinuses. However, flow patterns revealed that some streamlines reached the upper nasal cavity near the olfactory regions. These flow paths promote particle deposition in the sphenoid and ethmoid sinuses. Some differences were discovered in the deposition fractions and patterns for 5 and 10nm particles between the nasal-sinus and the nasal cavity models. This difference is amplified when the flow rate is decreased and at a flow rate of 4L/min the maximum difference was 17%. It is suggested that future evaluations of nanoparticle deposition should consider some deposition occurring in the paranasal sinuses especially if flow rates are of concern.

Inhaled particles with pharmacological agents (e.g. histamine, methacholine) are introduced into the nasal cavity for targeted delivery. Effective nasal drug delivery is highly dependent on the delivery of the drug from the nasal spray device. Atomization of liquid spray occurs through the internal atomizer that can produce many forms of spray patterns and two of these, hollow-cone and full-cone sprays, are evaluated in this study to determine which spray pattern produced greater deposition in the middle regions of the nasal cavity. Past studies of spray particle deposition have ignored the device within the nasal cavity. Experimental measurements from a Particle Droplet Image Analyzer (PDIA) were taken in order to gain confidence to validate the initial particle conditions for the computational models.. Subsequent airflow patterns and its effects on particle deposition, with and without a spray device, are compared. Contours and streamlines of the flow field revealed that the presence of a spray device in the nasal vestibule produced higher levels of disturbed flow, which helped the dispersion of the sprayed particles. Particle deposition was found to be high in the anterior regions of the nasal cavity due to its inertia. Evaluation of the two spray types found that hollow spray cones produced more deposition in the middle regions of the nasal cavity.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering
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Created: Thu, 11 Oct 2012, 15:07:15 EST by Brett Fenton
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