Few industries saw more disruption from the pandemic than the performing arts. To help orchestras return to the concert hall in a way that keeps performers and audience members safe, researchers have simulated air flow and aerosols around musicians onstage. Some instruments — like the trumpet — are super-spreaders when it comes to aerosol production, and, in the conventional organization of orchestras, those aerosols have to travel through other sections of the orchestra before reaching air vents, putting more musicians at risk.
Using Large Eddy Simulation, researchers looked at alternate seating arrangements for the Utah Symphony that could mitigate these risks. By rearranging the musicians so that instruments that produce lots of aerosols are closer to the air vents and open doors, the team reduced the average concentration of aerosols around musicians by a factor of 100, giving the performers a chance to return to the stage far more safely. (Image credit: top – M. Nägeli, simulation – H. Hedworth et al.; research credit: H. Hedworth et al.; via NYTimes; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)