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2016 News in Brief



High-speed imaging shows how fluid breaks apart in air

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PHOTO: “It’s important to understand how the process of fluid breakup happens,” Lydia Bourouiba says. “What is the physics telling us in terms of droplet size distribution, that we can use downstream to predict range of contamination?”

New high-speed videos show that as a person sneezes, they launch a sheet of fluid that balloons, breaks apart, and ultimately scatters as a spray of droplets. The researchers recorded more than 100 sneezes to reveal this unexpected complex pattern of fluid breakup. What we saw was surprising in many ways,” said Professor Lydia Bourouiba, head of the Fluid Dynamics of Disease Transmission Laboratory. “We expected to see droplets coming out fully formed from the respiratory tract. It turns out that’s not the case at all. And this gives us a good baseline to expand our mechanistic understanding of violent expirations.” Understanding how sneezing disperses droplets can help researchers map infection epidemics, as well as identify individuals who may be “super spreaders”. Read the article.