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Insights on drying and precipitation dynamics of respiratory droplets from the perspective of COVID-19

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We isolate a nano-colloidal droplet of surrogate mucosalivary fluid to gain fundamental insights into airborne nuclei's infectivity and viral load distribution during the COVID-19 pandemic. The salt-water solution containing particles at reported viral loads is acoustically trapped in a contactless environment to emulate the drying, flow, and precipitation dynamics of real airborne droplets. Similar experiments validate observations with the surrogate fluid with samples of human saliva samples from a healthy subject. A unique feature emerges regarding the final crystallite dimension; it is always 20%-30% of the initial droplet diameter for different sizes and ambient conditions. Airborne-precipitates nearly enclose the viral load within its bulk while the substrate precipitates exhibit a high percentage (∼80-90%) of exposed virions (depending on the surface). This work demonstrates the leveraging of an inert nano-colloidal system to gain insights into an equivalent biological system.

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