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A laboratory study of the expiratory airflow and particle dispersion in the stratified indoor environment

Liu, F., Qian, H., Luo, Z., Wang, S. and Zheng, X. (2020) A laboratory study of the expiratory airflow and particle dispersion in the stratified indoor environment. Building and Environment, 180. 106988. ISSN 0360-1323

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.buildenv.2020.106988


Understanding the role of human expiratory flows on respiratory infection in ventilated environments is useful for taking appropriate interventions to minimize the infection risk. Some studies have predicted the lock-up phenomenon of exhaled flows in stratified environments; however, there is a lack of high-quality experimental data to validate the theoretical models. In addition, how thermal stratification affects the transport of exhaled particles has not been explored so far. In this study, a water tank experiment was conducted according to the similarity protocols to mimic how the expiratory airflow and particles behaved in both uniform and stratified environments. The lock-up phenomenon was visualized and compared with the predicted results by an integral model. Results showed that our previously developed theoretical model of a respiratory airflow was effective to predict the airflow dispersion in stratified environments. Stratification frequency (N) of the background fluid and the Froude Number 〖"Fr" 〗_"0" of the thermal flow jointly determined the lock-up layer in a power law. For the particle dispersion, it indicated that small particles such as fine droplets and droplet nuclei would be ‘locked’ by indoor thermal stratification, and disperse with the thermal flow over a long distance, potentially increasing the long-range airborne infection risk. Large particles such as large droplets can deposit within a short distance, hardly affected by thermal stratification, however, droplet infection could happen to the susceptible people at a close contact with the infector. This study could give some guidance in view of cross-infection control indoors for stratified environment.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Walker Institute
Science > School of the Built Environment > Urban Living group
Science > School of the Built Environment > Energy and Environmental Engineering group
ID Code:90794


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