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Numerical Modeling of Spores Dispersal of Sphagnum Moss Using ANSYS FLUENT

[+] Author Affiliations
Dwight L. Whitaker, Robert Simsiman

Pomona College, Claremont, CA

Emily S. Chang

Google, Mountain View, CA

Samuel Whitehead

Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Hesam Sarvghad-Moghaddam

Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, CA

Paper No. FEDSM2017-69417, pp. V01CT23A014; 6 pages
  • ASME 2017 Fluids Engineering Division Summer Meeting
  • Volume 1C, Symposia: Gas-Liquid Two-Phase Flows; Gas and Liquid-Solid Two-Phase Flows; Numerical Methods for Multiphase Flow; Turbulent Flows: Issues and Perspectives; Flow Applications in Aerospace; Fluid Power; Bio-Inspired Fluid Mechanics; Flow Manipulation and Active Control; Fundamental Issues and Perspectives in Fluid Mechanics; Transport Phenomena in Energy Conversion From Clean and Sustainable Resources; Transport Phenomena in Materials Processing and Manufacturing Processes
  • Waikoloa, Hawaii, USA, July 30–August 3, 2017
  • Conference Sponsors: Fluids Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5806-6
  • Copyright © 2017 by ASME


The common peat moss, Sphagnum, is able to explosively disperse its spores by producing a vortex ring from a pressurized sporophyte to carry a cloud of spores to heights over 15 cm where the turbulent boundary layer can lift and carry them indefinitely. While vortex ring production is fairly common in the animal kingdom (e.g. squid, jellyfish, and the human heart), this is the first report of vortex rings generated by a plant. In other cases of biologically created vortex rings, it has been observed that vortices are produced with a maximum formation number of L/D = 4, where L is the length of the piston stroke and D is the diameter of the outlet. At this optimal formation number, the circulation and thus impulse of the vortex ring is maximized just as the ring is pinched off. In the current study, we modeled this dispersal phenomenon for the first time using ANSYS FLUENT 17.2. The spore capsule at the time of burst was approximated as a cylinder with a thin cylindrical cap attached to it. They were then placed inside a very large domain representing the air in which the expulsion was modeled. Due to the symmetry of our model about the central axis, we performed a 2D axisymmetric simulation. Also, due the complexity of the fluid domain as a result of the capsule-cap interface, as well as the need for a dynamic mesh for simulating the motion of the cap, first a mesh study was performed to generate an efficient mesh in order to make simulations computationally cost-effective. The domain was discretized using triangular elements and the mesh was refined at the capsule-cap interface to accurately capture the ring vortices formed by the expulsed cap. The dispersal was modeled using a transient simulation by setting a pressure difference between inside of the capsule and the surrounding atmospheric air. Pressure and vorticity contours were recorded at different time instances. Our simulation results were interpreted and compared to high-speed video data of sporophyte expulsions to deduce the pressure within the capsule upon dispersal, as well as the formation number of resulting vortex rings. Vorticity contours predicted by our model were in agreement with the experimental results. We hypothesized that the vortex rings from Sphagnum are sub-optimal since a slower vortex bubble would carry spores more effectively than a faster one.

Copyright © 2017 by ASME



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