Corona droplet infection: This is how coughed-up air is distributed

Corona droplet infection: This is how coughed-up air is distributed

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University video explains why it is important to keep your distance

A German research team made visible what remains hidden from the human eye. Using so-called Schlierenspiegel, the researchers show how exhaled air is distributed in the room. This should clarify the importance of safety distances to protect against infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

The Robert Koch Institute believes that a minimum distance of 1.5 meters from other people is one of the most important protective measures in order not to become infected with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, since the virus can be transmitted through direct contact between people via small droplets . Researchers at the Bauhaus University in Weimar are using modern technology to show what such a transmission can look like.

Impressive visualization of the room air distribution

A short film by the university impressively illustrates how the smallest air currents are distributed in the room. How the person who releases the exhaled air behaves plays a crucial role. In the video, for example, there is a massive difference whether someone simply coughs in the room, holds one hand over his mouth or covers his mouth with the crook of his arm. Here is the film from the university:

Keep distance! - How breathing air spreads when coughing. An experiment by the Chair of Building Physics. from Bauhaus University Weimar on Vimeo.

Always cover your mouth when coughing

"Especially when coughing without protection from the mouth, it becomes clear how much the air breathes in the room," emphasizes Professor Conrad Völker. For this reason, the mouth must always be covered when coughing. This shows the experiment impressively.

Arm bend is the best method

"Ideally with the crook of the arm, also to keep hands clean and not to carry any viruses or other pathogens through body contact or surfaces," adds the professor. The video also illustrates that respirators do not provide 100 percent protection against droplet infection.

How were indoor air flows recorded?

The distribution of the indoor air was visualized using the so-called Schlieren method. The heart of this process is a concave and extremely finely polished mirror with a diameter of around one meter. Even the smallest air currents are visible in this streak mirror.

"The principle is similar to an overheated road in summer when the air flickers over the asphalt," explains Völker. The density differences in the room air lead to a deflection of the light, which is then made visible with the help of the mirror. These movements are imperceptible to the naked eye.

Only four large streak systems worldwide

This type of mirror system exists only four times worldwide, according to the Bauhaus University Weimar. The system is normally used to analyze indoor air flows, for example to determine what influences the indoor climate has on the human body. (vb)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Bauhaus-Universität Weimar: Keep your distance: New video from the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar shows how breathing air spreads (published: 20.03.2020),

Video: Sneezing and Coronavirus Disease 2019 COVID-19 (July 2022).


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