The dynamic response of flexible filaments immersed in viscous fluids is important in cell mechanics, as well as other biological and industrial processes. In this paper, we propose a parallel computational framework to simulate the fluid-structure interactions in large assemblies of highly-flexible filaments immersed in a viscous fluid. We model the deformation of each filament in 3D with a C1 geometrically-exact large-deformation finite-element beam formulation and we describe the hydrodynamic interactions by a boundary element discretization of the Stokeslet model. We incorporate a contact algorithm that prevents fiber interpenetration and avoids previously reported numerical instabilities in the flow, thus providing the ability to describe the complex evolution of large clouds of fibers over long time spans. In order to support the required long-term integration, we use implicit integration of the solid-fluid-contact coupling. We address the challenges associated with the solution of the large and dense linear system for the hydrodynamic interactions by taking advantage of the massive parallelization offered by Graphic Processing Units (GPUs), which we test up to 1000 fibers and 45000 degrees of freedom. We validate the framework against the well-established response of the sedimentation of a single fiber under gravity in the low to moderate flexibility range. We then reproduce previous results and provide additional insights in the large to extreme flexibility range. Finally, we apply the framework to the analysis of the sedimentation of large clouds of filaments under gravity, as a function of fiber flexibility. Owing to the long time spans afforded by our computational framework, our simulations reproduce the breakup response observed experimentally in the lower flexibility range and provide new insights into the breakup of the initial clouds in the higher flexibility range.
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- Beam contact
- Boundary element method
- Flexible filaments in Stokes flow
- Fluid-structure interaction
- Graphic processing units (GPU)
- Large-deformation beam elements