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Motivated by the study of blood flow in the major coronary arteries, which are situated on the outer surface of the pumping heart, we analyse flow of an incompressible Newtonian fluid in a tube whose curvature varies both along the tube and with time. Attention is restricted to the case in which the tube radius is fixed and its centreline moves in a plane. Nevertheless, the governing equations are very complicated, because the natural coordinate system involves acceleration, rotation and deformation of the frame of reference, and their derivation forms a major part of the paper. Then they are applied to two particular, relatively simple examples: a tube of uniform but time-dependent curvature; and a sinuous tube, representing a small-amplitude oscillation about a straight pipe. In the former case the curvature is taken to be small and to vary by a small amount, and the solution is developed as a triple power series in mean curvature ratio δ0, curvature variation ε and Dean number D. In the latter case the Reynolds number is taken to be large and a linearized solution for the perturbation to the flow in the boundary layer at the tube wall is obtained, following Smith (1976a). In each case the solution is taken far enough that the first non-trivial effects of the variable curvature can be determined. Results are presented in terms of the oscillatory wall shear stress distribution and, in the uniform curvature case, the contribution of steady streaming to the mean wall shear stress is calculated. Estimation of the parameters for the human heart indicates that the present results are not directly applicable, but point the way for future work.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Fluid Mechanics

Publication Date





237 - 265