Researchers of the University of Central Florida (UCF) seek to reduce the chances of contagion from coronavirus in places where it is difficult to keep the safety distance by product that temporarily thickens saliva of people. In this way, the saliva drops that float in the air when coughing, talking or simply breathing would tend to fall to the ground and there would not be as much chance of someone else inhaling them, landing on surfaces or entering heating systems. or air conditioning, according to UCF researchers.

Combined with a mask or face mask, the pill can shorten the safety distance required to protect itself from contagion from 1.80 meters to about 60 centimeters, according to preliminary data obtained in laboratory tests.

According to information published on the UCF website, the US National Science Foundation has awarded one of its $ 200,000 rapid response research awards to the team led by Mike Kinzel, associate professor in the Department of Engineering Mechanics and Aerospace.

Kinzel and his team set out to create something as simple as a tablet made from cornstarch or caramel that people could take before going to work, schools or stores or supermarkets now that many US states are beginning to get out of confinement and it is more difficult to maintain a safe distance from other people.

To explain the project, Kinzel uses the simile of clouds made up of small particles that float in the air for hours until they collide with each other and form larger particles that fall to the ground like rain drops.

“We don’t want the particles (of saliva) to blow in the wind but to fall like rain,” he explains.
Kareem Ahmed, also an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and “number two” in the research, points out that maintaining “the 1.80 meter distance is very good as a general guideline.”

However, in closed places such as offices, grocery stores, public transportation, or hospitals, the particles will “interact with surfaces, ventilation, heating, and air conditioning systems.”

Postdoctoral researchers Douglas Héctor Fontes and Jonathan Reyes are conducting simulations and laboratory tests to verify that the idea of ​​thickening saliva is good and to determine the point of viscosity, density and other aspects necessary for it to be effective.

“Preliminary results show a significant reduction in the duration of airborne particle suspension by changing the physical properties of saliva,” Fontes says.

Her colleague Reyes, who studies how particles travel, found similar results. The particles don’t go that far and fall sooner, he said.