Phase diagram and breathing dynamics of a single red blood cell and a biconcave capsule in dilute shear flow

Alireza Z.K. Yazdani, Prosenjit Bagchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


We present phase diagrams of the single red blood cell and biconcave capsule dynamics in dilute suspension using three-dimensional numerical simulations. The computational geometry replicates an in vitro linear shear flow apparatus. Our model includes all essential properties of the cell membrane, namely, the resistance against shear deformation, area dilatation, and bending, as well as the viscosity difference between the cell interior and suspending fluids. By considering a wide range of shear rate and interior-to-exterior fluid viscosity ratio, it is shown that the cell dynamics is often more complex than the well-known tank-treading, tumbling, and swinging motion and is characterized by an extreme variation of the cell shape. As a result, it is often difficult to clearly establish whether the cell is swinging or tumbling. Identifying such complex shape dynamics, termed here as "breathing" dynamics, is the focus of this article. During the breathing motion at moderate bending rigidity, the cell either completely aligns with the flow direction and the membrane folds inward, forming two cusps, or it undergoes large swinging motion while deep, craterlike dimples periodically emerge and disappear. At lower bending rigidity, the breathing motion occurs over a wider range of shear rates, and is often characterized by the emergence of a quad-concave shape. The effect of the breathing dynamics on the tank-treading-to-tumbling transition is illustrated by detailed phase diagrams which appear to be more complex and richer than those of vesicles. In a remarkable departure from the vesicle dynamics, and from the classical theory of nondeformable cells, we find that there exists a critical viscosity ratio below which the transition is independent of the viscosity ratio, and dependent on shear rate only. Further, unlike the reduced-order models, the present simulations do not predict any intermittent dynamics of the red blood cells.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number026314
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 11 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics


Dive into the research topics of 'Phase diagram and breathing dynamics of a single red blood cell and a biconcave capsule in dilute shear flow'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this