Finite element model for nutrient distribution analysis of a hollow fiber membrane bioreactor.
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Hollow fiber membrane bioreactors (HFMB) are extensively used for the development of tissue substitutes for bones and cartilages. In an HFMB, the nutrient transport is dependent on the material properties of the porous scaffold and fiber membrane and also on the fluid flow through the hollow fiber. The difficulty in obtaining real-time data along with the presence of large number of variables in experimental studies have lead to increased application of computational models for the performance analysis of bioreactors. A major difficulty in the computational analysis of HFMB is the modeling of the interactions at the fluid and porous scaffold interfaces, which has often been neglected or incorporated using specific boundary conditions. In this study, a new FEM is developed to analyze the fluid flow in the fluid-porous region with the interface coupled directly into the FEM. Distribution of nutrients in the bioreactor is studied by coupling mass transport equations to the fluid-porous finite element framework. The new model is implemented to study the influence of permeability, cell density, and flow rate on the nutrient concentration distribution in the HFMB. The developed computational framework is an ideal tool to study fluid flow through porous-open channels and can also be used for the design of bioreactors for optimal tissue growth.