Bardia Hejazi  1, Oliver Schlenczek1, Birte Thiede1,2, Gholamhossein Bagheri1, Eberhard Bodenschatz This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.1,2,3,4 

1 Laboratory for Fluid Physics, Pattern Formation and Biocomplexity, Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization (MPIDS), Göttingen, NI 37077, Germany
2 Institute for Dynamics of Complex Systems, University of Göttingen, Göttingen, NI 37077, Germany
3 Laboratory of Atomic and Solid-State Physics, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
4 Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA

Received: March 7, 2022
Revised: May 23, 2022
Accepted: June 2, 2022

 Copyright The Author(s). This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are cited.

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Cite this article:

Hejazi, B., Schlenczek, O., Thiede, B., Bagheri, G., Bodenschatz, E. (2022). On the Risk of Infection by Infectious Aerosols in Large Indoor Spaces. Aerosol Air Qual. Res.


  • Experimental results on aerosol dynamics and transport in large indoor settings.
  • In large spaces, aerosol concentration decay is extremely rapid due to room flows.
  • Additionally, aerosol concentration decay is not dependent on aerosol size.
  • Risk of infection is highest from direct inhalation of infectious person’s exhale.
  • Proper masking significantly reduces one-to-one infection risk in large spaces.


Airborne diseases can be transmitted by infectious aerosols in the near field, i.e., in close proximity, or in the far field, i.e., by infectious aerosols that are well mixed within the indoor air. Is it possible to say which mode of disease transmission is predominant in large indoor spaces? We addressed this question by measuring the transport of aerosols equivalent to the size of human respiratory particles in two large hardware stores (V > 10000 m3). We found that aerosol concentrations in both stores decreased rapidly and almost independently of aerosol size, despite the different ventilation systems. A persistent and directional airflow on the order of a few cm/s was observed in both stores. Consequently, aerosol dynamics in such open settings can be expected to be dominated by turbulent dispersion and sweeping flows, and the accumulation of infectious aerosols in the indoor air is unlikely to contribute significantly to the risk of infection as long as the occupancy of the store is not too high.  Under these conditions, well-fitting face masks are an excellent means of preventing disease transmission by human aerosols.

Keywords: Aerosol transport, Large indoor settings, Exposure risk

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