Publication date: Aug 28, 2023
The globally supported social distancing rules to prevent airborne transmission of COVID-19 assume small saliva droplets evaporate fast and large ones, which contain most viral copies, fall fast to the ground. However, during evaporation, solutes distribute non-uniformly within the droplets. We developed a numerical model to predict saliva droplet drying in different environments. We represent saliva droplets as a solution of NaCl mixed with water. In a hot and dry ambiance, the solutes form a shell on the droplets’ surface, producing light, hollow particles. These hollow particles have a larger cross-sectional area compared to their solid counterparts and can float longer and travel farther in the air. We introduced the “hollowness factor,” which serves as a measure of the ratio of the volume of a hollow particle and the volume of a solid residue formed during droplet drying. Through our investigations, we determined that under specific conditions, namely an ambient humidity level of 10% and a temperature of 40^0C, the highest hollowness factor observed was 1. 610. This finding indicates that in the case of hollow particle formation, the droplet nucleus expands by a factor of 1. 610 compared to its original size.