A spectral boundary integral method for flowing blood cells

Hong Zhao, Amir H.G. Isfahani, Luke N. Olson, Jonathan B. Freund

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A spectral boundary integral method for simulating large numbers of blood cells flowing in complex geometries is developed and demonstrated. The blood cells are modeled as finitedeformation elastic membranes containing a higher viscosity fluid than the surrounding plasma, but the solver itself is independent of the particular constitutive model employed for the cell membranes. The surface integrals developed for solving the viscous flow, and thereby the motion of the massless membrane, are evaluated using an O(N logN) particle-mesh Ewald (PME) approach. The cell shapes, which can become highly distorted under physiologic conditions, are discretized with spherical harmonics. The resolution of these global basis functions is, of course, excellent, but more importantly they facilitate an approximate de-aliasing procedure that stabilizes the simulations without adding any numerical dissipation or further restricting the permissible numerical time step. Complex geometry no-slip boundaries are included using a constraint method that is coupled into an implicit system that is solved as part of the time advancement routine. The implementation is verified against solutions for axisymmetric flows reported in the literature, and its accuracy is demonstrated by comparison against exact solutions for relaxing surface deformations. It is also used to simulate flow of blood cells at 30% volume fraction in tubes between 4.9 and 16.9 lm in diameter. For these, it is shown to reproduce the well-known non-monotonic dependence of the effective viscosity on the tube diameter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3726-3744
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Computational Physics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Apr 20 2010


  • Boundary element methods
  • Particle-mesh Ewald
  • Red blood cells
  • Spherical harmonics
  • Stokes flow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Numerical Analysis
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Mathematics
  • Applied Mathematics


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