Mechanics of airflow in human inhalation

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Title: Mechanics of airflow in human inhalation
Authors: Bates, Alister
Item Type: Thesis or dissertation
Abstract: The mechanics of airflow in the large airways during inspiration affects important physiological functions such as ventilation, olfaction, heat exchange and mass transfer. The behaviour of the airflow is important not only for healthcare applications including diagnosis, intervention planning and assessment, but for inhalation toxicology. This research aims to further the understanding of human nasal physiology through computational modelling. Specifically, the effects of transient inhalation conditions on flow dynamics and transport were characterised and the changes in flow behaviour in response to certain pathologies quantified. The key findings can be summarised as follows: Firstly, the time scales for airflow in the large airways have been identified and the initial flow patterns revealed. Three phases in the temporal behaviour of the flow were identified (flow initiation, quasi-equilibrium and decay). The duration of each phase differs depending on the quantity of interest. Flow in the nose was characterised as transitional, whilst in parts of the descending airways it is turbulent, particularly in the faster moving regions around the jets which may occur in the pharynx, larynx and at the superior end of the trachea. The bulk of the flow is biased to fill only certain regions of the airways, whilst other regions carry little flow, due to features upstream. Analysis of cross-sectional images provided by medical imaging does not necessarily provide a representative view of the area available to the flow. Various scalar species were employed to represent the fate of nanoparticles and gaseous species within the airways. Only species with high diffusion rates exhibited significant absorption at the airway walls. Airway pathologies often cause changes to the geometry of the airway. One such pathology, the goitre, was found to curve the trachea and in some cases cause constriction. Both these geometric changes were found to increase the pressure loss and energy required to drive flow through the trachea. Furthermore, the flow in pathological cases was more disturbed. High resolution simulations have been used to address these topics and the scales simulated have been analysed in terms of the smallest features possible in the flow to determine their fidelity.
Content Version: Open Access
Issue Date: Nov-2014
Date Awarded: Feb-2015
Supervisor: Doorly, Denis
Sponsor/Funder: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Funder's Grant Number: EP/P505550/1
Department: Aeronautics
Publisher: Imperial College London
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Qualification Name: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Appears in Collections:Aeronautics PhD theses

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