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We present a combined theoretical and computational analysis of three-dimensional unsteady finite-Reynolds-number flows in collapsible tubes whose walls perform prescribed high-frequency oscillations which resemble those typically observed in experiments with a Starling resistor. Following an analysis of the flow fields, we investigate the system's overall energy budget and establish the critical Reynolds number, Recrit, at which the wall begins to extract energy from the flow. We conjecture that Recrit corresponds to the Reynolds number beyond which collapsible tubes are capable of performing sustained self-excited oscillations. Our computations suggest a simple functional relationship between Recrit and the system parameters, and we present a scaling argument to explain this observation. Finally, we demonstrate that, within the framework of the instability mechanism analysed here, self-excited oscillations of collapsible tubes are much more likely to develop from steady-state configurations in which the tube is buckled non-axisymmetrically, rather than from axisymmetric steady states, which is in agreement with experimental observations. © 2008 Cambridge University Press.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Fluid Mechanics

Publication Date





199 - 227