Following the recent determination that aerosol droplet spread follows an undetermined air flow trajectory, researchers are using data obtained from a mathematical model to help devise an aerosol extractor device.

According to a mathematical model developed by researchers from Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh in the U.K., the trajectory of aerosol droplet spread is inconsistent, with larger and smaller droplets traveling farther than medium-sized droplets but without a specific trajectory. This discovery, coupled with the ongoing worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, has prompted the same research team to develop the aerosol extractor device, which would trap those droplets small enough to penetrate masks.

The developers explained that the device could be a series of extraction units located near droplet sources where they trap droplets with diameters below that of a single human hair. The team envisions that the device could be used in healthcare applications such as dentistry, protecting workers against the aerosol transmission of COVID-19.

"This has important implications for the COVID-19 pandemic," said Cathal Cummins of Heriot-Watt University. "Larger droplets would be easily captured by PPE, such as masks and face shields. But smaller droplets may penetrate some forms of PPE, so an extractor could help reduce the weakness in our current defense against COVID-19 and future pandemics."

The research appears in the journal Physics of Fluids.

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com