Droplet nuclei caustic formations in exhaled vortex rings

Andreas Papoutsakis, Ionut Danaila , Francky Luddens , Manolis Gavaises

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Vortex ring (VR) structures occur in light or hoarse cough configurations. These instances consist of short impulses of exhaled air resulting to a self-contained structure that can travel large distances. The present study is the first implementation of the second order Fully Lagrangian Approach (FLA) for three-dimensional realistic flow-fields obtained by means of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and provides a method to calculate the occurrence and the intensity of caustic formations. The carrier phase flow field is resolved by means of second order accurate Direct Numerical Simulation (DNS) based on a Finite Difference approach for the momentum equations, while a spectral approach is followed for the Poisson equation using Fast Fourier Transform (FFT). The effect of the undulations of the carrier phase velocity due to large scale vortical structures and turbulence is investigated. The evaluation of the higher order derivatives needed by the second order FLA is achieved by pre-fabricated least squares second order interpolations in three dimensions. This method allows for the simulation of the clustering of droplets and droplet nuclei exhaled in ambient air in conditions akin to light cough. Given the ambiguous conditions of vortex-ring formation during cough instances, three different exhale (injection) parameters n are assumed, i.e. under-developed (n= 2), ideal (n= 3.7) and over-developed (n= 6) vortex rings. The formation of clusters results in the spatial variance of the airborne viral load. This un-mixing of exhumed aerosols is related to the formation of localised high viral load distributions that can be linked to super-spreading events.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3892
Number of pages15
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2022


  • Aerosolized Particles and Droplets
  • Aerosols
  • Caustics
  • Cough/chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Hydrodynamics


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