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Classroom aerosol dispersion modeling: experimental assessment of a low-cost flow simulation tool

by Philip Dacunto, Andrew Rodriguez, Mark Owkes, Michael J Benson
Publication Type
Journal Name
Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts
Publication Date
Page Numbers
1 to 10

The purpose of this study was to assess the utility of a low-cost flow simulation tool for an indoor air modeling application by comparing its outputs with the results of a physical experiment, as well as those from a more advanced computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software package. Five aerosol dispersion tests were performed in two different classrooms by releasing a CO2 tracer gas from six student locations. Resultant steady-state concentrations were monitored at 13 locations around the periphery of the room. Subsequently, the experiments were modeled using both a low-cost tool (SolidWorks Flow Simulation) and a more sophisticated tool (STAR-CCM+). Models were evaluated based on their ability to predict the experimentally measured concentrations at the 13 monitoring locations by calculating four performance parameters commonly used in the evaluation of dispersion models: fractional mean bias (FB), normalized mean-square error (NMSE), fraction of predicted value within a factor of two (FAC2), and normalized absolute difference (NAD). The more sophisticated model performed better in 15 of the 20 possible cases (five tests at four parameters each), with parameters meeting acceptance criteria in 19 of 20 cases. However, the lower-cost tool was only slightly worse, with parameters meeting acceptance criteria in 18 of 20 cases, and it performed better than the other tool in 3 of 20 cases. Because it provides useful results at a fraction of the monetary and training cost and is already widely accessible to many institutions, such a tool may be worthwhile for many indoor aerosol dispersion applications, especially for students or researchers just beginning CFD modeling.