Research ArticleCORONAVIRUS

On secondary atomization and blockage of surrogate cough droplets in single- and multilayer face masks

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science Advances  05 Mar 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 10, eabf0452
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abf0452


Face masks prevent transmission of infectious respiratory diseases by blocking large droplets and aerosols during exhalation or inhalation. While three-layer masks are generally advised, many commonly available or makeshift masks contain single or double layers. Using carefully designed experiments involving high-speed imaging along with physics-based analysis, we show that high-momentum, large-sized (>250 micrometer) surrogate cough droplets can penetrate single- or double-layer mask material to a significant extent. The penetrated droplets can atomize into numerous much smaller (<100 micrometer) droplets, which could remain airborne for a significant time. The possibility of secondary atomization of high-momentum cough droplets by hydrodynamic focusing and extrusion through the microscale pores in the fibrous network of the single/double-layer mask material needs to be considered in determining mask efficacy. Three-layer masks can effectively block these droplets and thus could be ubiquitously used as a key tool against COVID-19 or similar respiratory diseases.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

View Full Text

Stay Connected to Science Advances