Modelling and Validation of Mass transfer and multiphase fluid dynamics in hollow-fiber-membrane oxygenators

State of current research

Computational Fluid Dynamics, CFD, supports the development process of oxygenators significantly. The Influence of design changes on the flow distribution in an oxygenator can be estimated early in the process. The fiber bundle of hollow-fiber-membrane oxygenators, HFMOs, used clinically, supports or replaces the gas exchange of the natural lung.

The device consists of thousands of single membrane fibers, which separate gas inside the fibers and the blood flow on the outside. A numerical approach to model every fiber is not feasible due to the high number of elements required and therefore the high amount of time it would take to solve. The fiber bundle of an oxygenator is usually modeled as a porous media with assigned parameters, für example porosity and permeability, which represent the behavior of the actual fibers.

As a result of research conducted for a dissertation at the CVE, a miniature oxygenator, a so called MicroMox, with only a few single membrane fibers was numerical implemented and validated in in-vitro-tests. This model helps to understand the blood flow around the fibers and the gas exchange on a microscopic level.

  Photo of a MicroMox Copyright: © AME


Aim of this project is to develop the numerical model further, as well as to validate it in vitro. Further improvements consist of implementing a pulsatile flow, different fiber materials and arrangements. This improvements allow the investigation of isolated parameters, for example material, fiber gaps, flow rate and so forth, which will help to evaluate alternative membrane materials.

Another aspect of this project is to implement and validate a multiphase blood model. In capillary diameters smaller than 300 µm erythrocytes migrate towards the center of the tube due to the Fåhræus–Lindqvist effect. This effect results in a cell-free boundary layer. The gaps between fibers in a fiber bundle are also in the range of 200 to 300 µm. The tube diameter is not constant, which results in acceleration and deceleration of the blood flow. Due to this irregular flow patterns, it is not proven that a cell-free layer exists in hollow-fiber-membrane oxygenators. A cell-free layer would increase the diffusion pathway between membrane and erythrocytes. The multiphase blood model will help to investigate the cell-free layer and gas exchange in oxygenators on a microscopic level.


This project is funded by the German research foundation, support code STE 1680/7-1