Transition to turbulence in an oscillatory flow through stenosis

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Onset of flow transition in a sinusoidally oscillating flow through a rigid, constant area circular pipe with a smooth sinusoidal obstruction in the center of the pipe is studied by performing direct numerical simulations, with resolutions close to the Kolmogorov microscales. The studied pipe is stenosed in the center with a 75% reduction in area in two distinct configurations—one that is symmetric to the axis of the parent pipe and the other that is offset by 0.05 diameters to introduce an eccentricity, which disturbs the flow thereby triggering the onset of flow transition. The critical Reynolds number at which the flow transitions to turbulence for a zero-mean oscillatory flow through a stenosis is shown to be nearly tripled in comparison with studies of pulsating unidirectional flow through the same stenosis. The onset of transition is further explored with three different flow pulsation frequencies resulting in a total of 90 simulations conducted on a supercomputer. It is found that the critical Reynolds number at which the oscillatory flow transitions is not affected by the pulsation frequencies. The locations of flow breakdown and re-stabilization post-stenosis are, however, respectively shifted closer to the stenosis throat with increasing pulsation frequencies. The results show that oscillatory physiological flows, while more stable, exhibit fluctuations due to geometric complexity and have implications in studies of dispersion and solute transport in the cerebrospinal fluid flow and understanding of pathological conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-131
Number of pages19
JournalBiomechanics and modeling in mechanobiology
Issue number1
Early online date30 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Kolmogorov scale
  • Lattice Boltzmann method
  • Stenosis
  • Transitional flow


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