The deposition of ultrafine aerosols in the respiratory tract presents a significant health risk due to the increased cellular-level response that these particles may invoke. However, the effects of geometric simplifications on local and regional nanoparticle depositions remain unknown for the oral airway and throughout the respiratory tract. The objective of this study is to assess the effects of geometric simplifications on diffusional transport and deposition characteristics of inhaled ultrafine aerosols in models of the extrathoracic oral airway. A realistic model of the oral airway with the nasopharynx (NP) included has been constructed based on computed tomography scans of a healthy adult in conjunction with measurements reported in the literature. Three other geometries with descending degrees of physical realism were then constructed with successive geometric simplifications of the realistic model. A validated low Reynolds number k-ω turbulence model was employed to simulate laminar, transitional, and fully turbulent flow regimes for the transport of 1–200 nm particles. Results of this study indicate that the geometric simplifications considered did not significantly affect the total deposition efficiency or maximum local deposition enhancement of nanoparticles. However, particle transport dynamics and the underlying flow characteristics such as separation, turbulence intensity, and secondary motions did show an observable sensitivity to the geometric complexity. The orientation of the upper trachea was shown to be a major factor determining local deposition downstream of the glottis and should be retained in future models of the respiratory tract. In contrast, retaining the NP produced negligible variations in airway dynamics and could be excluded for predominantly oral breathing conditions. Results of this study corroborate the use of existing diffusion correlations based on a circular oral airway model. In comparison to previous studies, an improved correlation for the deposition of nanoparticles was developed based on a wider range of particle sizes and flow rates, which captures the dependence of the Sherwood number on both Reynolds and Schmidt numbers.

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