Numerical investigation on indoor environment decontamination after sneezing. Academic Article uri icon


  • More than 320 million people worldwide were affected by SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19, which already caused more than 5.5 million deaths. COVID-19 spreads through air when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes out droplets containing virus. Emerging variants like Omicron with positivity rate of 16 (highest among others) present a greater risk of virus spread, so all types of indoor environments become critically important. Strategically adopted Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) approach can significantly reduce the virus spread by early removal of contaminated aerosolized droplets. We modeled different HVAC configurations to characterize the diffusion of contaminated droplets cloud through Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations of sneeze in standard hospital room as indoor scenario. Injection of saliva droplets with characteristics of exhaled air from lungs was applied to mimic real sneeze. CFD simulations have been performed for three HVAC configurations at two Air Change per Hour (ACH) rates; 6 and 15 ACH. For the first time, use of air curtain at low flow rate has been examined. Simulations provide high fidelity spatial and temporal droplets cloud diffusion under different HVAC configurations, showing spread in room indoor environment up to 360s. Over 92% of ejected sneeze mass is removed from room air within seconds while the remaining 8% or less becomes airborne with droplets (<50m size) and tends to spread uniformly with regular HVAC configuration. Low-speed air curtain accelerates decontamination by efficiently removing aerosolized 1-50m size droplets. Study investigates role of droplets removal mechanisms such as escape, evaporation, and deposition on surfaces. Interestingly, results show presence of contaminated droplets even after 5min of sneeze, which can be effectively removed using low-speed air curtain. Study finds that high ventilation rate requirements can be optimized to modify earlier and new hospital designs to reduce the spread of airborne disease.

published proceedings

  • Environ Res

altmetric score

  • 3.1

author list (cited authors)

  • Kumar, S., & King, M. D.

citation count

  • 7

complete list of authors

  • Kumar, Sunil||King, Maria D

publication date

  • October 2022