The dispersion of spherical droplets in source–sink flows and their relevance to the COVID-19 pandemic

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Abstract

In this paper, we investigate the dynamics of spherical droplets in the presence of a source-sink pair flow field. The dynamics of the droplets is governed by the Maxey-Riley equation with Basset-Boussinesq history term neglected. We find that, in the absence of gravity, there are two distinct behaviours for the droplets: small droplets cannot go further than a specific distance, which we determine analytically, from the source before getting pulled into the sink. Larger droplets can travel further from the source before getting pulled into the sink by virtue of their larger inertia, and their maximum travelled distance is determined analytically. We investigate the effects of gravity, and we find that there are three distinct droplet behaviours categorised by their relative sizes: small, intermediate-sized, and large. Counterintuitively, we find that the droplets with minimum horizontal range are neither small nor large, but of intermediate size. Furthermore, we show that in conditions of regular human respiration, these intermediate-sized droplets range from a few microns to a few hundred microns. The result that such droplets have a very short range could have important implications for the interpretation of existing data on droplet dispersion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)083302
JournalPhysics of Fluids
Volume32
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2020

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