The backscattered and transmitted diagrams of He–Ne laser light illuminating a concentrated suspension of red blood cells (RBC's) are investigated. The shapes of these diagrams are closely related to the state of the suspension (at rest or submitted to a simple shear flow) and to the parameters that govern the non-Newtonian behavior of the blood suspension (such as the viscosity of the suspending medium and the volume concentration of the cells). An asymmetry in the backscattering diagram, which is absent on transmitted diagrams, is observed when the suspension is in a simple shear flow. This asymmetry is related to the deformation and orientation of the RBC's. The propagation of light through the suspension is modeled and a set of Monte Carlo simulations is performed to substantiate the inference that the relative variation of the backscattered flux is proportional to the gradients of deformation of the RBC's, and that such gradients must be known in order to apply a rheological model describing the non-Newtonian behavior of RBC membranes.
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