New tool could help indoor spaces be designed to reduce spread of Covid-19

The University of Glasgow

THE University of Glasgow is developing a tool capable of predicting the spread of airborne droplets in a bid to help indoor spaces be designed to lessen the spread of certain viruses.

The £1.35 million RELIANT research project is being led by engineers from the university, alongside experts in fluid mechanics, modelling and computation from a total of five UK universities.

The tool, which is set to run on mobile devices and computers, will allow users to custom-build detailed models of any indoor space and visualise how changes in general design, the increase of ventilation and number of occupants could affect the transport of droplets around the area.

The system will be developed over the next 18 months, with a user-friendly interface being targeted. The team said it will work to build on existing computer and mathematical models of how droplets are carried in the air across indoor spaces of all sizes. Further research will be undertaken at wind tunnel testing facilities in Glasgow and Cambridge to create new fluid-dynamic models in a wide range of conditions.

Dr Andrea Cammarano, of the University of Glasgow’s James Watt School of Engineering, is RELIANT’s principal investigator. He commented, “Social distancing and the use of masks are two of the most effective measures in helping prevent the spread of Covid-19. While vaccines are rolling out around the world, it’s likely that we will still need to maintain some level of social distancing for quite some time into the future.

“In the meantime, however, we still need to share indoor spaces with each other in places like schools, supermarkets and gyms. Businesses, too, need to be able to stay open wherever possible to keep the economy running.

“Currently, there’s no unified system to help people decide how best to minimise the risk of infection indoors. Our hope is that RELIANT will provide an easy-to-use platform to help anyone who has a responsibility for health and safety in an indoor space to keep people safe, both while we’re dealing with Covid-19 and for any similar pandemics we might face in coming years.”