, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 131-143
Date: 01 Oct 2011

Microbubble transport through a bifurcating vessel network with pulsatile flow

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Abstract

Motivated by two-phase microfluidics and by the clinical applications of air embolism and a developmental gas embolotherapy technique, experimental and theoretical models of microbubble transport in pulsatile flow are presented. The one-dimensional time-dependent theoretical model is developed from an unsteady Bernoulli equation that has been modified to include viscous and unsteady effects. Results of both experiments and theory show that roll angle (the angle the plane of the bifurcating network makes with the horizontal) is an important contributor to bubble splitting ratio at each bifurcation within the bifurcating network. When compared to corresponding constant flow, pulsatile flow was shown to produce insignificant changes to the overall splitting ratio of the bubble despite the order one Womersley numbers, suggesting that bubble splitting through the vasculature could be modeled adequately with a more modest constant flow model. However, bubble lodging was affected by the flow pulsatility, and the effects of pulsatile flow were evident in the dependence of splitting ratio of bubble length. The ability of bubbles to remain lodged after reaching a steady state in the bifurcations is promising for the effectiveness of gas embolotherapy to occlude blood flow to tumors, and indicates the importance of understanding where lodging will occur in air embolism. The ability to accurately predict the bubble dynamics in unsteady flow within a bifurcating network is demonstrated and suggests the potential for bubbles in microfluidics devices to encode information in both steady and unsteady aspects of their dynamics.