The six-feet requirement for physical distancing might not be enough with the emergence of a new study that says a normal conversation can release coronavirus airborne droplets up to more than six feet.

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), entitled "Speech can produce jet-like transport relevant to asymptomatic spreading of virus," revealed that normal conversations can carry airborne droplets up to a distance of more than six feet in enclosed spaces. This indicates that everyday talk could spread droplets much farther than the required distance for social distancing.

Researchers from the University of Montpellier who specialise in fluid dynamics used a high-speed camera to track the movement of mists of tiny droplets. The droplets were illuminated using a laser sheet right in front of the individual talking. The participants would enunciate different phrases such as "Peter Piper picked a peck," along with "we will beat the coronavirus." The phrases were carefully selected to include sounds that would lead to turbulent flows whenever the speaker would exhale.

Researchers noted that explosive sounds like the sound of "p" would create puffs of air when the speaker would talk. The series of puffs then create a jet-flow, which the researchers stated could carry tiny droplets quickly. They found that short phrases could move particles farther than the one-meter distance. Those who speak more could easily send droplets farther especially in spaces without proper ventilation.

Howard Stone, one of the authors and a Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University, noted that a person who speaks for 30 seconds in a loud voice projects aerosol more than six feet towards the other person engaged in the conversation.

The researchers also noted that more extended discussions like meetings in closed spaces indicate that the environment contains potentially exhaled air, which has traveled for a longer distance.

Conversations And Airborne Droplets
Conversations And Airborne Droplets Photo: Pixabay

Thus, the researchers underscored the importance of masks as it cuts off the flow tremendously. Masks, along with proper ventilation, play a huge role in preventing airborne droplets from spreading really far, especially in enclosed spaces.