Predicting Pathogen Transport with Computational Fluid Dynamics

By Clare Scott

Over the past year, people everywhere have been forced to think about pathogen transport in a much more serious way than ever before. Any place other humans gather is a place where COVID-19 could potentially be transmitted, and safety measures must be considered before going to any public location. Masks have been shown to be one of the best solutions for blocking the spread of COVID-19 pathogens, but other protective initiatives can be taken as well.

Before these initiatives can be put into place, however, we need an understanding of how contaminants move through the air and settle on surfaces. SIMULIA’s fluid solutions are excellent at simulating contaminant transport—tracking water vapor and droplets through the air, identifying contaminated surfaces, and offering guidance on improving air circulation, cleaning protocols, and other preventative measures.

Jonathan Jilesen, SIMULIA IPS, Fluids Industry Process Expert Senior Specialist, CFD Workflows, will be presenting a webinar on SIMULIA’s fluid solutions for better understanding and mitigating pathogen transport. “Highly Efficiently and Accurate Scale Resolved CFD to Better Understand Pathogen Transport Flow Physics” will be taking place on Wednesday, April 21 from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM EST.

Among the topics discussed will be the importance of turbulence modeling and its impact on flow structures. Attendees will learn about Very Large Eddy Simulation (VLES) vs. the Unsteady Reynolds-Averaged Navier-Stokes (URANS) method; VLES resolves finer structure in the flow while URANS captures only low frequency unsteadiness.

URANS, therefore, shows much less distribution of particles than VLES. This means that, in a situation where someone sneezes, URANS can underestimate the distance the particles travel from the sneezer to nearby surfaces, and can wrongfully suggest that a situation is safe. Decisions based on URANS can endanger people in workplaces, schools, or other public places; pathogen transport modeling requires VLES for accurate prediction.

The webinar will also discuss simulation for HVAC design inside vehicles in order to keep passengers as safe from pathogens as possible. Fresh Air Mode inside a car clears the air in a shorter amount of time than Recirculation Mode, and protects passengers from contaminants inside the cabin while Recirculation Mode protects them from contaminants outside the cabin.

In terms of vehicle air filters, high-efficiency particulate air filters and ionization filters are the most effective at preventing COVID-19 transmission. However, higher filter efficiency can negatively affect HVAC performance, so these tradeoffs must be considered. PowerFLOW can help with these design considerations by predicting the instantiation, propagation, and deposition of particles, as well as filter clogging.

Overall, SIMULIA’s tools can assess the effectiveness of filters and HVAC systems for cabin air quality and evaluate filter impact on thermal comfort, acoustic comfort, and energy efficiency.

Attend the webinar to learn more details about VLES and URANS simulation methods, HVAC design, and how SIMULIA PowerFLOW in particular can be used to help keep people safe from COVID-19 transmission in their workplaces and vehicles. The webinar is free and will be available on-demand after the live event. You can register for the webinar here.