If the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines aren’t enough to convince you that face shields alone shouldn’t be used to stop the spread of COVID-19, then maybe a new visualization study will.
To increase public awareness about the effectiveness of face shields alone as well as face masks with exhalation valves, researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science used qualitative visualizations to test how face shields and masks with valves perform in impeding the spread of aerosol-sized droplets. Widespread public use of these alternatives to regular masks could potentially have an adverse effect on mitigation efforts.
For the study, just published in the journal Physics of Fluids, researchers employed flow visualization in a laboratory setting using a laser light sheet and a mixture of distilled water and glycerin to generate the synthetic fog that made up the content of a cough-jet. They visualized droplets expelled from a mannequin’s mouth while simulating coughing and sneezing. By placing a plastic face shield and an N95-rated face mask with a valve, they were able to map out the paths of droplets and demonstrate how they performed.
Results of the study show that although face shields block the initial forward motion of the jet, the expelled droplets move around the visor with relative ease and spread out over a large area depending on light ambient disturbances. Visualizations for the face mask equipped with an exhalation port indicate that a large number of droplets pass through the exhale valve unfiltered, which significantly reduces its effectiveness as a means of source control.
“From this latest study, we were able to observe that face shields are able to block the initial forward motion of the exhaled jet, however, aerosolized droplets expelled with the jet are able to move around the visor with relative ease,” said Manhar Dhanak, Ph.D., department chair, professor, and director of SeaTech, who co-authored the paper with Siddhartha Verma, Ph.D., lead author and an assistant professor; and John Frankenfeld, a technical professional, all within FAU’s Department of Ocean and Mechanical Engineering. “Over time, these droplets can disperse over a wide area in both lateral and longitudinal directions, albeit with decreasing droplet concentration.”Learn More