Rutgers Expert Available to Discuss Coronavirus Risk from Surfaces, Groceries, Food, Airborne Exposures

New Brunswick, N.J. (Oct. 26, 2020) – Rutgers University–New Brunswick Professor Donald W. Schaffner is available for interviews on the likelihood of getting infected by

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Evaporation Critical to Coronavirus Transmission as Weather Changes

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, it is increasingly urgent to understand how climate impacts the spread of the coronavirus, particularly as winter virus infections are more common and the northern hemisphere will soon see cooler temperatures. In Physics of Fluids, researchers studied the effects of relative humidity, environmental temperature, and wind speed on the respiratory cloud and virus viability. They found a critical factor for the transmission of the infectious particles is evaporation.

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Humid Air Can Extend Lifetime of Virus-Laden Aerosol Droplets

The novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is thought to spread through natural respiratory activities, but little is known about how the virus is transported through the air. Scientists report in Physics of Fluids on a study of how airflow and fluid flow affect exhaled droplets that can contain the virus. Their model includes a more accurate description of air turbulence that affects an exhaled droplet’s trajectory. Calculations with their model reveal, among other things, an important and surprising effect of humid air.

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Seeing is Believing: Effectiveness of Facemasks

Using flow visualization of emulated coughs and sneezes, researchers assessed the efficacy of facemasks in obstructing droplets. Loosely folded facemasks and bandana-style coverings provide minimal stopping-capability for the smallest aerosolized respiratory droplets. Well-fitted homemade masks with multiple layers of quilting fabric, and off-the-shelf cone style masks, proved to be the most effective in reducing droplet dispersal. Importantly, uncovered coughs were able to travel noticeably farther than the currently recommended 6-foot distancing guideline. Without a mask, droplets traveled more than 8 feet.

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Face Mask Construction, Materials Matter for Containing Coughing, Sneezing Droplets

While the use of face masks in public has been widely recommended by health officials during the current COVID-19 pandemic, there are relatively few specific guidelines pertaining to mask materials and designs. A study in Physics of Fluids looks to better understand which types are best for controlling respiratory droplets that could contain viruses. The team experimented with different choices in material and design to determine how well face masks block droplets as they exit the mouth.

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Flushing Toilets Create Clouds of Virus-Containing Particles

Researchers used a computer simulation to show how a flushing toilet can create a cloud of virus-containing aerosol droplets that is large and widespread and lasts long enough that the droplets could be breathed in by others. With recent studies showing the COVID-19 virus can survive in the human digestive tract and show up in feces of the infected, this raises the possibility the disease could be transmitted with the use of toilets.

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Survival of Coronavirus in Different Cities, on Different Surfaces

One of the many questions researchers have about the COVID-19 virus is how long it remains alive after someone infected coughs or sneezes. In Physics of Fluids, researchers examine the drying time of respiratory droplets from COVID-19-infected subjects on various surfaces in six cities around the world. Using a model well established in the field of interface science, the drying time calculations showed ambient temperature, type of surface and relative humidity play critical roles.

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