Role of barriers in the airborne spread of virus-containing droplets: A study based on high-resolution direct numerical simulations Articles uri icon


publication date

  • January 2022


  • 1


  • 34

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1070-6631

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1089-7666


  • State-of-the-art direct numerical simulations are exploited to study the role of barriers on the airborne spread of virus-containing droplets. Our study is motivated by recent findings pointing to the key role of turbulence in dictating the final fate of virus-containing droplets in violent human exhalations. Here, all active scales of motion have been explicitly taken into account, including their interplay with the droplet evaporation process occurring once droplets are emitted in a drier ambient air, and accounting for the time-varying droplet inertia due to the water loss via evaporation. We show that barriers commonly used to mitigate the airborne spread of the virus cause nontrivial dynamical effects influencing the final reach of the virus-containing droplets, not always being beneficial to this aim. These conclusions do depend on the relative humidity of the ambient condition, and in particular whether the ambient humidity is above or below the so-called efflorescence relative humidity. Our findings provide a physically based answer to the question on how effective barriers are to protect people from airborne virus transmission in indoor environments.


  • Biology and Biomedicine