A Theoretical Model of Localized Heat and Water Vapor Transport in the Human Respiratory Tract

[+] Author and Article Information
L. M. Hanna

School of Hygiene and Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md. 21205

P. W. Scherer

Department of Bioengineering, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa. 19104

J Biomech Eng 108(1), 19-27 (Feb 01, 1986) (9 pages) doi:10.1115/1.3138574 History: Received June 16, 1984; Revised September 03, 1985; Online June 12, 2009


A steady-state, one-dimensional theoretical model of human respiratory heat and water vapor transport is developed. Local mass transfer coefficients measured in a cast replica of the upper respiratory tract are incorporated into the model along with heat transfer coefficients determined from the Chilton-Colburn analogy and from data in the literature. The model agrees well with reported experimental measurements and predicts that the two most important parameters of the human air-conditioning process are: 1) the blood temperature distribution along the airway walls, and 2) the total cross-sectional area and perimeter of the nasal cavity. The model also shows that the larynx and pharynx can actually gain water over a respiratory cycle and are the regions of the respiratory tract most subject to drying. With slight modification, the model can be used to investigate respiratory heat and water vapor transport in high stress environments, pollutant gas uptake in the respiratory tract, and the connection between respiratory air-conditioning and the function of the mucociliary escalator.

Copyright © 1986 by ASME
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