What do the flapping wings of a bird and a swimmer’s flexible movement in the water have in common? The answer is biofluid mechanics. Though it’s generally not a topic of conversation amongst most people biofluid mechanics is everywhere in our daily lives, from the air we breathe or the flow of blood in our body, to the swimming of fish or plant circulation.
A special subject of fluid mechanics – biofluid mechanics describes the motions and forces of fluids in a range of biological systems: from cells in complex fluids, through respiratory flows and insect flight, to swimmers and paddlers.
It offers students the chance to apply engineering, mathematical, and physical principles of fluids to solve complex and multi-faceted problems (see eg Fig I for a non-exhaustive list of examples), primarily in biology and medicine, but also in aerospace and robotics.
Lying at the interface of several disciplines, involving various scales and a wide range of physical systems, biofluid mechanics is inherently a multi-disciplinary field, addressing multi-scale and multi-physics phenomena, with an immeasurable impact to humans, the nature, and science and technology.
The study of blood flow through the heart and body, the flow of air in the lungs, the movement of swimming and flying animals through water or air, and the properties of complex biofluids are just some of the research topics currently being investigated, with many more advanced topics still under research.
The problems addressed in biofluid mechanics are often very complex, and therefore challenging.
Research approaches can encompass combined methodologies, including theoretical, experimental, and computational studies. Incorporation of innovative technologies, state-of-the-art imaging modalities, and high-fidelity computational fluid dynamics (CFD) methods are often utilised in combination, in an effort to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the biological flows under investigation.
Strong collaborations with clinicians, biologists, and other scientists from multiple disciplines are also an integral part of the biofluid mechanics field that ensure discussions across different disciplines, and intellectual advancement towards our understanding of the physical world.