COVID-19 Tips: Safety Tips To Avoid SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus Transmission When In A Car
: A new study by researchers from
University of Massachusetts and Brown University-Rhode Island
new series of computational fluid dynamics simulations suggests that, for two people who must travel together in the same passenger car, the safest way to prevent possible transmission of COVID-19
in such a risky, enclosed environment is to do so with all four windows down and the passenger seated as far as possible from the driver, in the rear seat on the opposite side.
A study published recently in Science Advances looks at how airflow patterns inside the passenger cabin of a car might affect the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and other airborne pathogens. The simulations produced some potentially counterintuitive findings. For example, one might expect that opening windows directly beside each occupant might be the simplest way to reduce exposure. The simulations found that while this configuration is better than no windows down at all, it carries a higher exposure risk compared to putting down the window opposite each occupant. “When the windows opposite the occupants are open, you get a flow that enters the car behind the driver, sweeps across the cabin behind the passenger and then goes out the passenger-side front window,” said Kenny Breuer, a professor of engineering at Brown and a senior author of the research. “That pattern helps to reduce cross-contamination between the driver and passenger.” Credit: Breuer lab / Brown University
Transmission of highly infectious respiratory diseases, including SARS-CoV-2, is facilitated by the transport of exhaled droplets and aerosols that can remain suspended in air for extended periods of time. A passenger car cabin represents one such situation with an elevated risk of pathogen transmission.
The study team presents results from numerical simulations to assess how the in-cabin microclimate of a car can potentially spread pathogenic species between occupants, for a variety of open and closed window configurations.
The team estimates relative concentrations and residence times of a non-interacting, passive scalar–a proxy for infectious particles–being advected and diffused by turbulent air flows inside the cabin. An air flow pattern that travels across the cabin, farthest from the occupants can potentially reduce the transmission risk.
The study findings reveal the complex fluid dynamics during every day commutes and non-intuitive ways in which open windows can either increase or suppress airborne transmission.
The study is published in the peer reviewed journal: Science Advances
Dr Varghese Mathai and colleagues found that this modeled configuration created two distinct flows of air in the car’s cabin, separated along the midline of the car and moving ,perhaps counter intuitively from the rear towards the front of the car, due to exterior pressure differentials dictated by the car’s aerodynami
This separated airflow configuration was the most effective at reducing the transmission of simulated infectious droplets from either driver to passenger, or vice versa.
A new study looks at how airflow patterns inside the passenger cabin of a car might affect the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and other airborne pathogens. Using computer simulations, the study looked at the risk of aerosol particles being shared between a driver and a passenger in different window configurations. Redder shades indicate more particles. Risk was shown to be higher with windows closed (top left), and decreasing with each window opened. The best case was having all windows open (bottom right). Credit: Breuer lab / Brown University
But recognizing that such a breezy configuration may be less desirable for many travelers, the researchers also tested the opposite scenario ie all four windows up as well as four other scenarios with either one or two windows closed.
The fully enclosed scenario, which relied only on simulated, non-recirculated airflow from the car’s air conditioning system, was the riskiest of all six simulated scenarios, conferring the highest risk of droplet transmission.
However traveling with three open windows fared better than only two open windows, but the researchers found that choosing which window to close may in fact matter a great deal. In scenarios that simulated either an infected driver or an infected passenger, closing only the window closest to the non-infected person conferred the greatest protection, second only to the scenario with all four windows open.
The study team notes that their simulations, based on an idealized model sedan patterned after the body shape of a Toyota Prius, may not accurately reflect airflow dynamics in other vehicles such as trucks, minivans, and cars with an open sunroof.
The team also notes that their models may also miss some other nuances of airflow and particle residence times that may result from, for example, strong crosswinds or otherwise exceptionally windy conditions.
The study team all the same concludes. that “these results will have a strong bearing on infection mitigation measures for the hundreds of millions of people driving in passenger cars and taxis worldwide, and potentially yield to safer and lower-risk approaches to personal transportation.”
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