Fluid Dynamics: From Planes to Hearts - By : Substance,

Fluid Dynamics: From Planes to Hearts

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What do airplanes and a heart have in common? “The basic equations that govern blood and air are the same,” says Giuseppe Di Labbio, a new professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Fluids are ubiquitous in our environment. We breathe the air, swim in the river, hear our heartbeats, admire the tears of a smooth wine… Fluids are also turbulence in an aircraft, devastating hurricanes, and aortic regurgitation.

Fluid dynamics has fascinated Giuseppe Di Labbio since the beginning of his studies in Mechanical Engineering at Concordia University. He discovered this universe through Professor Georgios Vatistas, but it was his internship directed by Professor Lyes Kadem that reinforced his passion for fluid mechanics and led him to his field of specialization: pulsed jets.

Silicone Heart

To study these phenomena in a tangible way, Di Labbio and his classmates built a transparent silicone heart under the supervision of Professor Kadem. Then they used a mixture that mimics blood to better understand the mechanics of fluid flow in the ventricles, atria and large arteries. This defining experience in Di Labbio’s academic journey led him to explore cardiac pathologies. Wishing to further his investigation, Giuseppe decided to continue his graduate studies in this domain, always under the guidance of Professor Kadem. His master’s thesis focused on the relationship between blood flow and aortic rupture, while his PhD thesis focused on aortic regurgitation.

Normally, the left ventricle fills through the mitral valve and then blood is expelled through the aortic valve. But in the case of aortic regurgitation, the aortic valve is leaking. Therefore, the left ventricle fills with blood through two valves instead of one. “So, we have two pulsed jets that interact in the left ventricle, and that creates a very, very complex flow,” says the young engineer.

His PhD opened the door to ÉTS, allowing him to conduct a research program on the fundamental principles and applications of pulsed jet arrangements. “In the human body, pulsed jets are found in the heart, but also in the bladder, explains Professor Di Labbio. When we analyze the characteristics of the jets, we can better study complex cases, and thus improve detection and evaluation of anomalies.”

Vanier Scholarship

Giuseppe Di Labbio, Professor at ÉTS

Giuseppe Di Labbio, Professor at ÉTS

Giuseppe Di Labbio’s work has earned him several awards over the years. But it is the prestigious Vanier Scholarship—which recognizes academic excellence, research potential and leadership skills—that gives him the most pride. “It’s like a recognition of all that I’ve achieved and an encouragement to keep going. It was truly the award that pleased me the most.”

For some time now, Di Labbio has felt the need to return to the fundamentals of pulsed jet interaction. There are very few studies on the subject. “The space is so small in the bladder or ventricle that it’s hard to understand how pulsed jets interact.” He would like to extend this type of research to other areas, including aeronautics. He already has a project in mind.

From Jets to Jets

Everyone hates vibrations during air travel. Not Di Labbio. He studies them. To ensure a smooth flight, the layers of air near the wings must stick to the surface. “Attaching small aerodynamic devices to the wings creates longitudinal vortices that revitalize the fluid very close to the surface, what we call the boundary layer. And that forces the flow to stick to the aircraft wing.” Giuseppe Di Labbio plans to test a vortex generator system powered by pulsed jets in a wind tunnel on a fairly common wing profile.

Other projects also occupy his thoughts. For example, observing the way squids and jellyfish use pulsed jets to move gave Giuseppe the idea of a type of aquatic robot propelled by a similar mechanism. To Be Continued.

Teaching the Rhythm of Life

In the meantime, his job as an assistant professor at ÉTS in Mechanical Engineering is keeping him busy. He loves teaching; above all, he wants to share his passion with young minds open to innovation. “ÉTS is the largest engineering school in Quebec. The facilities are modern. The laboratories are well equipped for research and there is a lot of it going on.” He hopes to teach courses in thermofluids in the near future.

When he’s not at work, Giuseppe continues to view the world with his engineering eye. Because for him, engineering is everywhere, even when tending his vegetable garden with a hydroponic system that he is automating.

“If I hadn’t been an engineer, I would have been a chef,” he says. Fine herbs, Italian food, paired with wine, of course! The fluids of life in all their forms. Cheers!

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