Biomaterials Translational ›› 2021, Vol. 2 ›› Issue (1): 10-18.doi: 10.3877/cma.j.issn.2096-112X.2021.01.003

• REVIEW • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Physicochemical properties of respiratory droplets and their role in COVID-19 pandemics: a critical review

Ting Ge1,*(), Shengfeng Cheng2,*()   

  1. 1 Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA
    2 Department of Physics, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Center for Soft Matter and Biological Physics, and Macromolecules Innovation Institute, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA, USA
  • Received:2020-10-26 Revised:2020-12-24 Accepted:2020-12-29 Online:2021-03-31 Published:2021-03-28
  • Contact: Ting Ge,Shengfeng Cheng E-mail:tingg@mailbox.sc.edu;chengsf@vt.edu


The ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is a serious challenge faced by the global community. Physical scientists can help medical workers and biomedical scientists, engineers, and practitioners, who are working on the front line, to slow down and eventually contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. This review is focused on the physicochemical characteristics, including composition, aerodynamics, and drying behavior of respiratory droplets as a complex and multicomponent soft matter system, which are the main carrier of the virus for interpersonal transmission. The distribution and dynamics of virus particles within a droplet are also discussed. Understanding the characteristics of virus-laden respiratory droplets can lead to better design of personal protective equipment, frequently touched surfaces such as door knobs and touchscreens, and filtering equipment for indoor air circulation. Such an understanding also provides the scientific basis of public policy, including social distancing rules and public hygiene guidelines, implemented by governments around the world.

Key words: aerosol, COVID-19, evaporation, pandemic, respiratory droplet, virus