Heil, M. & White, J.P. (2002) Airway Closure: Surface-tension-driven non-axisymmetric instabilities of liquid-lined elastic rings. Journal of Fluid Mechanics 462, 79-109.

This paper investigates the stability and large-displacement post-buckling behaviour of liquid-lined elastic rings. The fluid flow and the wall deformation are described by the free-surface Navier-Stokes equations and by geometrically non-linear shell theory, respectively. The fluid-structure interaction problem is solved numerically by a finite element method. The compressive load on the ring is a combination of the external pressure and the effect of surface-tension. Once this combined load exceeds a critical value, the subsequent non-axisymmetric collapse of the ring is controlled by the dynamics of the surface-tension-driven redistribution of fluid in the liquid lining. It is shown that, for sufficiently large surface tension, the ring can undergo a catastrophic collapse which leads to a complete occlusion of its lumen. A novel lubrication theory model, which ensures exact volume conservation for flows on strongly curved substrates, is developed and found to be capable of accurately describing the motion of the air-liquid interface and the fluid-structure interaction in the large-displacement regime, even in cases where the film thickness is large. The findings have important implications for the occurrence of airway closure in lung diseases (such as oedema) which cause an increase in the thickness of the airways' liquid lining. It is shown that under such conditions, airways can become occluded even if the volume of fluid in their liquid lining is much smaller than that required to occlude them in their axisymmetric state.

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