CFD simulations of enhanced condensational growth (ECG) applied to respiratory drug delivery with comparisons to in vitro data

J Aerosol Sci. 2010 Aug 1;41(8):805-820. doi: 10.1016/j.jaerosci.2010.04.006.


Enhanced condensational growth (ECG) is a newly proposed concept for respiratory drug delivery in which a submicrometer aerosol is inhaled in combination with saturated or supersaturated water vapor. The initially small aerosol size provides for very low extrathoracic deposition, whereas condensation onto droplets in vivo results in size increase and improved lung retention. The objective of this study was to develop and evaluate a CFD model of ECG in a simple tubular geometry with direct comparisons to in vitro results. The length (29 cm) and diameter (2 cm) of the tubular geometry were representative of respiratory airways of an adult from the mouth to the first tracheobronchial bifurcation. At the model inlet, separate streams of humidified air (25, 30, and 39 °C) and submicrometer aerosol droplets with mass median aerodynamic diameters (MMADs) of 150, 560, and 900 nm were combined. The effects of condensation and droplet growth on water vapor concentrations and temperatures in the continuous phase (i.e., two-way coupling) were also considered. For an inlet saturated air temperature of 39 °C, the two-way coupled numerical (and in vitro) final aerosol MMADs for initial sizes of 150, 560, and 900 nm were 1.75 μm (vs. 1.23 μm), 2.58 μm (vs. 2.66 μm), and 2.65 μm (vs. 2.63 μm), respectively. By including the effects of two-way coupling in the model, agreements with the in vitro results were significantly improved compared with a one-way coupled assumption. Results indicated that both mass and thermal two-way coupling effects were important in the ECG process. Considering the initial aerosol sizes of 560 and 900 nm, the final sizes were most influenced by inlet saturated air temperature and aerosol number concentration and were not largely influenced by initial size. Considering the growth of submicrometer aerosols to above 2 μm at realistic number concentrations, ECG may be an effective respiratory drug delivery approach for minimizing mouth-throat deposition and maximizing aerosol retention in a safe and simple manner. However, future studies are needed to explore effects of in vivo boundary conditions, more realistic respiratory geometries, and transient breathing.