Reynolds number effects on lipid vesicles

David Salac*, Michael J. Miksis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Vesicles exposed to the human circulatory system experience a wide range of flows and Reynolds numbers. Previous investigations of vesicles in fluid flow have focused on the Stokes flow regime. In this work the influence of inertia on the dynamics of a vesicle in a shearing flow is investigated using a novel level-set computational method in two dimensions. A detailed analysis of the behaviour of a single vesicle at finite Reynolds number is presented. At low Reynolds numbers the results recover vesicle behaviour previously observed for Stokes flow. At moderate Reynolds numbers the classical tumbling behaviour of highly viscous vesicles is no longer observed. Instead, the vesicle is observed to tank-tread, with an equilibrium angle dependent on the Reynolds number and the reduced area of the vesicle. It is shown that a vesicle with an inner/outer fluid viscosity ratio as high as 200 will not tumble if the Reynolds number is as low as 10. A new damped tank-treading behaviour, where the vesicle will briefly oscillate about the equilibrium inclination angle, is also observed. This behaviour is explained by an investigation on the torque acting on a vesicle in shear flow. Scaling laws for vesicles in inertial flows have also been determined. It is observed that quantities such as vesicle tumbling period follow square-root scaling with respect to the Reynolds number. Finally, the maximum tension as a function of the Reynolds number is also determined. It is observed that, as the Reynolds number increases, the maximum tension on the vesicle membrane also increases. This could play a role in the creation of stable pores in vesicle membranes or for the premature destruction of vesicles exposed to the human circulatory system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-146
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • capsule/cell dynamics
  • membranes
  • multiphase flow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Applied Mathematics


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