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From Red Cells To Soft Lubrication, An Experimental Study Of Lift Generation Inside A Compressible Porous Layer

T. Gacka, Z. Zhu, R. Crawford, R. Nathan, Q. Wu

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It is a new concept for porous media flow that a hydrodynamic lifting force is generated inside a highly compressible porous layer as a planing surface glides over it. The concept originated from the observation of the pop-out phenomena of red blood cells over the endothelial glycocalyx layer (EGL) lining the inner surface of our blood vessels (Feng & Weinbaum, J. Fluid Mech., vol. 422, 2000, pp. 282–317). In the current paper, we report an experimental study to examine this concept. A novel testing set-up was developed that consists of a running conveyer belt covered with a soft porous sheet, and a fully instrumented upper planar board, i.e. planing surface. The generation of pore pressure was observed and captured by pressure transducers when the planing surface glides over the porous sheet. Its distribution strongly depends on the relative velocity between the planing surface and the running belt, the mechanical and transport properties of the porous sheet as well as the compression ratios at the leading and trailing edges. The relative contribution of the transiently trapped air to the total lift was evaluated by comparing the pore pressure to the total lifting pressure measured by a load cell mounted between two adjacent pressure transducers. For a typical running condition with a polyester porous material ($k=h_{2}/h_{1}=5$, $\unicode[STIX]{x1D706}=h_{2}/h_{0}=1$, $U=3.8~\text{m}~\text{s}^{-1}$, where $h_{2}$, $h_{1}$, are the porous layer thickness at the leading and trailing edges, respectively; $h_{0}$ is the un-deformed porous layer thickness; and $U$ is the velocity of the running belt), over 68 % of the local lift is generated by the pore pressure. The results conclusively verified the validity of lift generation in a highly compressible porous layer as a planing surface glides over it. This study provides the foundation for the application of highly compressible porous media for soft lubrication with minimal frictional losses. It also sheds some light on the biophysics study of the EGL.