Characterizing exhaled airflow from breathing and talking

Indoor Air. 2010 Feb;20(1):31-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0668.2009.00623.x. Epub 2009 Sep 11.


The exhaled air of infected humans is one of the prime sources of contagious viruses. The exhaled air comes from respiratory events such as the coughing, sneezing, breathing and talking. Accurate information on the thermo-fluid characteristics of the exhaled airflow can be important for prediction of infectious disease transmission. The present study developed a source model to provide the thermo-fluid conditions of the exhaled air from the breathing and talking processes. The source model is a set of equations obtained from the measurements of the flow rate, flow direction, and area of mouth/nose opening with human subjects. It was found that the exhaled flow rate over time can be represented as a sinusoidal function for breathing and a constant for talking. The flow rates can be calculated by physiological parameters of a subject. The direction of the exhalation jet did not vary much between subjects and the area of mouth/nose opening could be regarded as a constant. Though the mouth/nose opening size varied among subjects, they were not correlated with the physiological parameters of the subjects. If combined with appropriate virus and droplet distribution information, the model can be used to describe the disease source due to breathing and talking.

Practical implications: Accurate prediction of airborne disease transmission, and the infection prone zones, can aid in identifying and implementing the control strategies. With the recent advancements, Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) has become a powerful tool in predicting the disease transmission. Accurate prediction of the transmission by these CFD simulations requires information on sources and sinks of infectious viruses and models for dispersion of these viruses. The exhaled air of an infected human is one of the prime sources of disease viruses. In the present study, measurements of the flow were conducted on human subjects to develop models for the flow boundary conditions for the exhalation and inhalation during breathing and talking.

MeSH terms

  • Disease Transmission, Infectious*
  • Exhalation / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Particulate Matter / analysis
  • Speech*


  • Particulate Matter