sneeze in silhouette
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Capturing the fluid flow of sneezes

Physicists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US have described a striking sequence of shapes found in the fluid we eject when we sneeze.

Using high-speed cameras, they saw that the stream of mucus and saliva breaks up into drops by way of a progression that includes sheets of fluid, bags, and finally beaded strings.

The process is important to understand because it determines the final spread of droplet sizes - a critical factor in how a sneeze spreads germs.

The findings were presented at a meeting of the American Physical Society's Division of Fluid Dynamics, in Boston.

Video courtesy of the Bourouiba Group, MIT. It forms part of the study "Visualization of sneeze ejecta: Steps of fluid fragmentation leading to respiratory droplets" by Scharfman et al, which is due out soon in the journal Experiments in Fluids

  • 24 Nov 2015