Some questions on dispersion of human exhaled droplets in ventilation room: answers from numerical investigation

Indoor Air. 2010 Apr;20(2):95-111. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0668.2009.00626.x. Epub 2009 Sep 24.


This study employs a numerical model to investigate the dispersion characteristics of human exhaled droplets in ventilation rooms. The numerical model is validated by two different experiments prior to the application for the studied cases. Some typical questions on studying dispersion of human exhaled droplets indoors are reviewed and numerical study using the normalized evaporation time and normalized gravitational sedimentation time was performed to obtain the answers. It was found that modeling the transient process from a droplet to a droplet nucleus due to evaporation can be neglected when the normalized evaporation time is <0.051. When the normalized gravitational sedimentation time is <0.005, the influence of ventilation rate could be neglected. However, the influence of ventilation pattern and initial exhaled velocity on the exhaled droplets dispersion is dominant as the airflow decides the droplets dispersion significantly. Besides, the influence of temperature and relative humidity on the dispersion of droplets can be neglected for the droplet with initial diameter <200 microm; while droplet nuclei size plays an important role only for the droplets with initial diameter within the range of 10 microm-100 microm. Practical Implications Dispersion of human exhaled droplets indoor is a key issue when evaluating human exposure to infectious droplets. Results from detailed numerical studies in this study reveal how the evaporation of droplets, ventilation rate, airflow pattern, initial exhaled velocity, and particle component decide the droplet dispersion indoor. The detailed analysis of these main influencing factors on droplet dispersion in ventilation rooms may help to guide (1) the selection of numerical approach, e.g., if the transient process from a droplet to a droplet nucleus due to evaporation should be incorporated to study droplet dispersion, and (2) the selection of ventilation system to minimize the spread of pathogen-laden droplets in an indoor environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Movements
  • Air Pollution, Indoor* / statistics & numerical data
  • Algorithms
  • Exhalation / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Ventilation* / statistics & numerical data