Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 21074477
Med Eng Phys 2011 Sep;33(7):849-56
Microfluidic techniques are employed to investigate air-liquid flows in the lung. A network of microchannels with five generations is made and used as a simplified model of a section of the pulmonary airway tree. Liquid plugs are injected into the network and pushed by a flow of air; they divide at every bifurcation until they reach the exits of the network. A resistance, associated with the presence of one plug in a given generation, is defined to establish a linear relation between the driving pressure and the total flow rate in the network. Based on this resistance, good predictions are obtained for the flow of two successive plugs in different generations. The total flow rate of a two-plug flow is found to depend not only on the driving pressure and lengths of the plugs, but also the initial distance between them. Furthermore, long range interactions between daughters of a dividing plug are observed and discussed, particularly when the plugs are flowing through the bifurcations. These interactions lead to different flow patterns for different forcing conditions: the flow develops symmetrically when subjected to constant pressure or high flow rate forcing, while a low flow rate driving yields an asymmetric flow.