Fluctuation of cilia-generated flow on the surface of the tracheal lumen

Kouki Kiyota, Hironori Ueno, Keiko Numayama-Tsuruta, Tomofumi Haga, Yohsuke Imai, Takami Yamaguchi, Takuji Ishikawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Although we inhale air that contains many harmful substances, including, for example, dust and viruses, these small particles are trapped on the surface of the tracheal lumen and transported towards the larynx by cilia-generated flow. The transport phenomena are affected not only by the time-and space-average flow field but also by the fluctuation of the flow. Because flow fluctuation has received little attention, we investigated it experimentally in mice. To understand the origin of flow fluctuation, we first measured the distribution of ciliated cells in the trachea and individual ciliary motions. We then measured the detailed flow field using a confocal micro-PTV system. Strong flow fluctuations were observed, caused by the unsteadiness of the ciliary beat and the spatial inhomogeneity of ciliated cells. The spreading of particles relative to the bulk motion became diffusive if the time scale was sufficiently larger than the beat period. Finally, we quantified the effects of flow fluctuation on bulk flow by evaluating the Peclet number of the system, which indicated that the directional transport was an order of magnitude larger than the isotropic diffusion. These results are important in understanding transport phenomena in the airways on a cellular scale.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L144-L151
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Jan 15


  • Cilia
  • Fluid mechanics
  • Mixing
  • Particle tracking velocimetry
  • Transport phenomena


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