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Minimizing hydraulic resistance of a plant root by shape optimization

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Analytical solution of the pressure field for water uptake through a composite root, coupled with fully saturated soil is derived by using the slender body approximation. It is shown that in general, the resistance of the root and soil are

Analytical solution of the pressure field for water uptake through a composite root, coupled with fully saturated soil is derived by using the slender body approximation. It is shown that in general, the resistance of the root and soil are not additive. This result can play a very important role in modelling water uptake through plant roots and determination of hydraulic resistances of plant roots. Optimum plant root structure that minimizes a single root’s hydraulic resistance is also studied in this work with the constraint of prescribed root volume. Hydraulic resistances under the slender body approximation and without such a limitation are considered. It is found that for large stele-to-cortex permeability ratio, there exists an optimum root length-to-base-radius ratio that minimizes the hydraulic resistance. A remarkable feature of the optimum root structure is that the optimum dimensionless stele conductivity depends only on a single geometrical parameter, the stele-to-root base-radius ratio. Once the stele-to-root base-radius ratio and the stele-to-cortex permeability ratio are given, the optimum root length-to-radius ratio can be found. While these findings remain to be verified by experiments for real plant roots, they offer theoretical guidance for the design of bio-inspired structures that minimizes hydraulic resistance for fluid production from porous media.

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Date Created
2016