Assessing the use of portable air cleaners for reducing exposure to airborne diseases in a conference room with thermal stratification

John E. Castellini, Cary A. Faulkner, Wangda Zuo, David M. Lorenzetti, Michael D. Sohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for strategies that mitigate the risk of aerosol disease transmission in indoor environments with different ventilation strategies. It is necessary for building operators to be able to estimate and compare the relative impacts of different mitigation strategies to determine suitable strategies for a particular situation. Using a validated CFD model, this study simulates the dispersion of exhaled contaminants in a thermally stratified conference room with overhead heating. The impacts of portable air-cleaners (PACs) on the room airflow and contaminant distribution were evaluated for different PAC locations and flow rates, as well as for different room setups (socially distanced or fully occupied). To obtain a holistic view of a strategy's impacts under different release scenarios, we simultaneously model the steady-state distribution of aerosolized virus contaminants from eight distinct sources in 18 cases for a total of 144 release scenarios. The simulations show that the location of the source, the PAC settings, and the room set-up can impact the average exposure and PAC effectiveness. For this studied case, the PACs reduced the room average exposure by 31%–66% relative to the baseline case. Some occupant locations were shown to have a higher-than-average exposure, particularly those seated near the airflow outlet, and occupants closest to sources tended to see the highest exposure from said source. We found that these PACs were effective at reducing the stratification caused by overhead heating, and also identified at least one sub-optimal location for placing a PAC in this space.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108441
JournalBuilding and Environment
StatePublished - Jan 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Building and Construction


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