Coarse graining the dynamics of immersed and driven fiber assemblies

David B. Stein, Michael J. Shelley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An important class of fluid-structure problems involves the dynamics of ordered arrays of immersed, flexible fibers. While specialized numerical methods have been developed to study fluid-fiber systems, they become infeasible when there are many, rather than a few, fibers present, and these methods do not lend themselves to analytical calculation. Here, we introduce a coarse-grained continuum model, based on local-slender-body theory, for elastic fibers immersed in a viscous Newtonian fluid. It takes the form of an anisotropic Brinkman equation whose skeletal drag is coupled to elastic forces. This model has two significant benefits: (1) the density effects of the fibers in a suspension become analytically manifest and (2) it allows for the rapid simulation of dense suspensions of fibers in regimes inaccessible to standard methods. As a first validation, without fitting parameters, we achieve very reasonable agreement with three-dimensional (3D) immersed boundary simulations of a bed of anchored fibers bent by a shear flow. Second, we characterize the effect of density on the relaxation time of fiber beds under oscillatory shear and find close agreement to results from full numerical simulations. We then study buckling instabilities in beds of fibers, using our model both numerically and analytically to understand the role of fiber density and the structure of buckling transitions. We next apply our model to study the flow-induced bending of inclined fibers in a channel, as has been recently studied as a flow rectifier, examining the nature of the internal flows within the bed, and the emergence of inhomogeneous permeability. Finally, we extend the method to study a simple model of metachronal waves on beds of actuated fibers, as a model for ciliary beds. Our simulations reproduce qualitatively the pumping action of coordinated waves of compression through the bed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number073302
JournalPhysical Review Fluids
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 9 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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