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We consider axially uniform, two-phase flow through a rigid curved tube in which a fluid (air) core is surrounded by a film of a second, immiscible fluid (water): a simplified model for flow in a conducting airway of the lung. Jensen (1997) showed that, in the absence of a core flow, surface tension drives the system towards a configuration in which the film thickness tends to zero on the inner wall of the bend. In the present work, we demonstrate that the presence of a core flow, driven by a steady axial pressure gradient, allows the existence of steady states in which the film thickness remains finite, a consequence of the fact that the tangential stresses at the interface, imposed by secondary flows in the core, can oppose the surface-tension-driven flow. For sufficiently strong surface tension, the steady configurations are symmetric about the plane containing the tube’s centreline, but as the surface tension decreases the symmetry is lost through a pitchfork bifurcation, which is closely followed by a limit point on the symmetric solution branch. This solution structure is found both in simulations of the Navier–Stokes equations and a thin-film model appropriate for weakly curved tubes. Analysis of the thin-film model reveals that the bifurcation structure arises from a perturbation of the translational degeneracy of the interface location in a straight tube.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Fluid Mechanics

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Total pages