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WASHINGTON, D.C. — What happens to droplets of saliva filled with influenza viruses or other nasties in the office environment? John McLaughlin of Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY and his colleagues Xinli Jia, Goodarz Ahmadi, and Jos Derksen (University of Alberta and Clarkson) have modeled this situation on the computer using a technique called direct numerical simulation. His models track the flow of thousands of particles of differing size and density in an 8-foot by 6-foot office space with a mannequin seated in the middle of the room in front of an air vent. The mannequin is heated to simulate the effect of an actual person, and this heat creates a plume in the room that affects the flow of air.
McLaughlin and his colleagues found that the heat plume also affects the motion of the particles carried by the room air—quite dramatically, in fact. "They come raining down on the mannequin," McLaughlin says. He hopes next to incorporate breathing in his models to see how many particles get sniffed up by the mannequins.
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