The reorientation phenomenon of a single red blood cell during sedimentation is simulated using the boundary element method. The cell settles downwards due to a density difference between the internal and external fluids, and it changes orientation toward a vertical orientation regardless of Bond number or viscosity ratio. The reorientation phenomenon is explained by a shape asymmetry caused by the gravitational driving force, and the shape asymmetry increases almost linearly with the Bond number. When velocities are normalised by the driving force, settling/drifting velocities are weak functions of the Bond number and the viscosity ratio, while the angular velocity of the reorientation drastically changes with these parameters: the angular velocity is smaller for lower Bond number or higher viscosity ratio. As a consequence, trajectories of the sedimentation are also affected by the angular velocity, and blood cells with slower reorientation travel longer distances in the drifting direction. We also explain the mechanism of the reorientation using an asymmetric dumbbell. From the analysis, we show that the magnitude of the angular velocity is explained by two main factors: the shape asymmetry and the instantaneous orientation angle.
Matsunaga et al. supplementary movie