Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Fluid mechanics


Inducing thermal gradients in fluid systems with initial, well-defined density gradients results in the formation of distinct layered patterns, such as those observed in the ocean due to double-diffusive convection. In contrast, layered composite fluids are sometimes observed in confined systems of rather chaotic initial states, for example, lattes formed by pouring espresso into a glass of warm milk. Here, we report controlled experiments injecting a fluid into a miscible phase and show that, above a critical injection velocity, layering emerges over a time scale of minutes. We identify critical conditions to produce the layering, and relate the results quantitatively to double-diffusive convection. Based on this understanding, we show how to employ this single-step process to produce layered structures in soft materials, where the local elastic properties vary step-wise along the length of the material.

Concepts: Fluid dynamics, Sociology, Experiment, Fluid mechanics, Viscosity, Liquid, Materials science, Latte


We present Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) models of the coupled dynamics of water flow, heat transfer and irradiance in and around corals to predict temperatures experienced by corals. These models were validated against controlled laboratory experiments, under constant and transient irradiance, for hemispherical and branching corals. Our CFD models agree very well with experimental studies. A linear relationship between irradiance and coral surface warming was evident in both the simulation and experimental result agreeing with heat transfer theory. However, CFD models for the steady state simulation produced a better fit to the linear relationship than the experimental data, likely due to experimental error in the empirical measurements. The consistency of our modelling results with experimental observations demonstrates the applicability of CFD simulations, such as the models developed here, to coral bleaching studies. A study of the influence of coral skeletal porosity and skeletal bulk density on surface warming was also undertaken, demonstrating boundary layer behaviour, and interstitial flow magnitude and temperature profiles in coral cross sections. Our models compliment recent studies showing systematic changes in these parameters in some coral colonies and have utility in the prediction of coral bleaching.

Concepts: Scientific method, Coral, Temperature, Thermodynamics, Heat, Fluid mechanics, Computational fluid dynamics, Bulk density


In this study, the steady forced convection flow and heat transfer due to an impermeable stretching surface in a porous medium saturated with a nanofluid are investigated numerically. The Brinkman-Forchheimer model is used for the momentum equations (porous medium), whereas, Bongiorno’s model is used for the nanofluid. Uniform temperature and nanofluid volume fraction are assumed at the surface. The boundary layer equations are transformed to ordinary differential equations in terms of the governing parameters including Prandtl and Lewis numbers, viscosity ratio, porous medium, Brownian motion and thermophoresis parameters. Numerical results for the velocity, temperature and concentration profiles, as well as for the reduced Nusselt and Sherwood numbers are obtained and presented graphically.

Concepts: Fundamental physics concepts, Thermodynamics, Heat, Fluid mechanics, Differential equation, Heat transfer, Drag, Boundary layer


Microactuation of free standing objects in fluids is currently dominated by the rotary propeller, giving rise to a range of potential applications in the military, aeronautic and biomedical fields. Previously, surface acoustic waves (SAWs) have been shown to be of increasing interest in the field of microfluidics, where the refraction of a SAW into a drop of fluid creates a convective flow, a phenomenon generally known as SAW streaming. We now show how SAWs, generated at microelectronic devices, can be used as an efficient method of propulsion actuated by localised fluid streaming. The direction of the force arising from such streaming is optimal when the devices are maintained at the Rayleigh angle. The technique provides propulsion without any moving parts, and, due to the inherent design of the SAW transducer, enables simple control of the direction of travel.

Concepts: Fundamental physics concepts, Fluid dynamics, Fluid mechanics, Liquid, Wave, Fluid, Field, Surface acoustic wave


We investigate the influences of expansion-contraction microchannels on droplet breakup in capillary microfluidic devices. With variations in channel dimension, local shear stresses at the injection nozzle and focusing orifice vary, significantly impacting flow behavior including droplet breakup locations and breakup modes. We observe transition of droplet breakup location from focusing orifice to injection nozzle, and three distinct types of recently-reported tip-multi-breaking modes. By balancing local shear stresses and interfacial tension effects, we determine the critical condition for breakup location transition, and characterize the tip-multi-breaking mode quantitatively. In addition, we identify the mechanism responsible for the periodic oscillation of inner fluid tip in tip-multi-breaking mode. Our results offer fundamental understanding of two-phase flow behaviors in expansion-contraction microstructures, and would benefit droplet generation, manipulation and design of microfluidic devices.

Concepts: Psychology, Fluid dynamics, Fluid mechanics, Viscosity, Liquid, Surface tension, Shear stress, Microfluidics


Many urological studies rely on models of animals, such as rats and pigs, but their relation to the human urinary system is poorly understood. Here, we elucidate the hydrodynamics of urination across five orders of magnitude in body mass. Using high-speed videography and flow-rate measurement obtained at Zoo Atlanta, we discover that all mammals above 3 kg in weight empty their bladders over nearly constant duration of 21 ± 13 s. This feat is possible, because larger animals have longer urethras and thus, higher gravitational force and higher flow speed. Smaller mammals are challenged during urination by high viscous and capillary forces that limit their urine to single drops. Our findings reveal that the urethra is a flow-enhancing device, enabling the urinary system to be scaled up by a factor of 3,600 in volume without compromising its function. This study may help to diagnose urinary problems in animals as well as inspire the design of scalable hydrodynamic systems based on those in nature.

Concepts: Blood, Urine, Mass, Urinary bladder, Urinary system, Urethra, Urination, Fluid mechanics


The pathogenesis of osteoarthritis (OA) is poorly understood, and therapeutic approaches are limited to preventing progression of the disease. Recent studies have shown that exosomes play a vital role in cell-to-cell communication, and pathogenesis of many age-related diseases. Molecular profiling of synovial fluid derived exosomal miRNAs may increase our understanding of OA progression and may lead to the discovery of novel biomarkers and therapeutic targets. In this article we report the first characterization of exosomes miRNAs from human synovial fluid. The synovial fluid exosomes share similar characteristics (size, surface marker, miRNA content) with previously described exosomes in other body fluids. MiRNA microarray analysis showed OA specific exosomal miRNA of male and female OA. Gene Ontology (GO) analysis and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) pathway analysis identified gender-specific target genes/signaling pathways. These pathway analyses showed that female OA specific miRNAs are estrogen responsive and target TLR (toll-like receptor) signaling pathways. Furthermore, articular chondrocytes treated with OA derived extracellular vesicles had decreased expression of anabolic genes and elevated expression of catabolic and inflammatory genes. In conclusion, synovial fluid exosomal miRNA content is altered in patients with OA and these changes are gender specific.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Cell, RNA, MicroRNA, Fluid mechanics, Comparative Toxicogenomics Database


This paper reviews unsteady flow conditions in human swimming and identifies the limitations and future potential of the current methods of analysing unsteady flow. The capability of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) has been extended from approaches assuming steady-state conditions to consideration of unsteady/transient conditions associated with the body motion of a swimmer. However, to predict hydrodynamic forces and the swimmer’s potential speeds accurately, more robust and efficient numerical methods are necessary, coupled with validation procedures, requiring detailed experimental data reflecting local flow. Experimental data obtained by particle image velocimetry (PIV) in this area are limited, because at present observations are restricted to a two-dimensional 1.0 m(2) area, though this could be improved if the output range of the associated laser sheet increased. Simulations of human swimming are expected to improve competitive swimming, and our review has identified two important advances relating to understanding the flow conditions affecting performance in front crawl swimming: one is a mechanism for generating unsteady fluid forces, and the other is a theory relating to increased speed and efficiency.

Concepts: Fluid dynamics, Fluid mechanics, Computational fluid dynamics, Navier–Stokes equations, Swimming, Goggles, Front crawl


Biological microorganisms swim with flagella and cilia that execute nonreciprocal motions for low Reynolds number (Re) propulsion in viscous fluids. This symmetry requirement is a consequence of Purcell’s scallop theorem, which complicates the actuation scheme needed by microswimmers. However, most biomedically important fluids are non-Newtonian where the scallop theorem no longer holds. It should therefore be possible to realize a microswimmer that moves with reciprocal periodic body-shape changes in non-Newtonian fluids. Here we report a symmetric ‘micro-scallop’, a single-hinge microswimmer that can propel in shear thickening and shear thinning (non-Newtonian) fluids by reciprocal motion at low Re. Excellent agreement between our measurements and both numerical and analytical theoretical predictions indicates that the net propulsion is caused by modulation of the fluid viscosity upon varying the shear rate. This reciprocal swimming mechanism opens new possibilities in designing biomedical microdevices that can propel by a simple actuation scheme in non-Newtonian biological fluids.

Concepts: Fluid dynamics, Continuum mechanics, Fluid mechanics, Viscosity, Shear stress, Fluid, Non-Newtonian fluid, Newtonian fluid


This work is a synthesis of our current understanding of the mechanics, aerodynamics and visually mediated control of dragonfly and damselfly flight, with the addition of new experimental and computational data in several key areas. These are: the diversity of dragonfly wing morphologies, the aerodynamics of gliding flight, force generation in flapping flight, aerodynamic efficiency, comparative flight performance and pursuit strategies during predatory and territorial flights. New data are set in context by brief reviews covering anatomy at several scales, insect aerodynamics, neuromechanics and behaviour. We achieve a new perspective by means of a diverse range of techniques, including laser-line mapping of wing topographies, computational fluid dynamics simulations of finely detailed wing geometries, quantitative imaging using particle image velocimetry of on-wing and wake flow patterns, classical aerodynamic theory, photography in the field, infrared motion capture and multi-camera optical tracking of free flight trajectories in laboratory environments. Our comprehensive approach enables a novel synthesis of datasets and subfields that integrates many aspects of flight from the neurobiology of the compound eye, through the aeromechanical interface with the surrounding fluid, to flight performance under cruising and higher-energy behavioural modes.This article is part of the themed issue ‘Moving in a moving medium: new perspectives on flight’.

Concepts: Fluid dynamics, Aerodynamics, Fluid mechanics, Computational fluid dynamics, Flight, Flying and gliding animals, Odonata, Dragonfly