Fluid mechanics and sound generation for lung-clearance therapy: Advanced design modality for a biomedical therapeutic device

John M Gorman, Ephraim M Sparrow, Kevin Krautbauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The study described here aims to set forth an analysis approach for a specific biomedical therapeutic device principally involving fluid mechanics and resulting sound generation. The function of the therapeutic device is to clear mucus from the airways of the lungs. Clearance of the airways is a primary means of relief for cystic fibrosis and is also effective in less profound dysfunctions such as asthma. The complete system consists of a device to periodically pulse air pressure and a vest that girdles the abdomen of the patient and receives and discharges the pulsating airflow. The source of pulsed air can be tuned both with respect to the amplitude and frequency of the pressure pulsations. Design/methodology/approach: The key design tools used here are computational fluid dynamics and the theory of turbulence-based sound generation. The fluid flow inside of the device is multidimensional, unsteady and turbulent. Findings: Results provided by the fluid mechanic study include the rates of fluid flow between the device and the inflatable vest, the rates of air supplied to and extracted from the device, the fluid velocity magnitudes and directions that result from the geometry of the device and the magnitude of the turbulence generated by the fluid motion and the rotating component of the device. Both the velocity magnitudes and the strength of the turbulence contribute to the quantitative evaluation of the sound generation. Originality/value: A comprehensive literature search on this type of therapeutic device to clear mucus from the airways of the lungs revealed no previous analysis of the fluid flow and sound generation inside of the device producing the pulsed airflow. The results presented in this paper pinpoint the locations and causes of sound generation that can cause audible discomfort for patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)820-838
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Numerical Methods for Heat and Fluid Flow
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • CFD
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Pulsed air
  • Sound generation
  • Turbulent fluid flow


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