We conducted a systematic investigation of droplet evaporation on different surfaces. We found that droplets formed even with distilled water do not disappear with evaporation but instead shrink to a residue of a few micrometers lasting over 24 h. The residue formation process differs across surfaces and humidity levels. Specifically, under 40% relative humidity, 80% of droplets form residues on plastic and uncoated and coated glass, while less than 20% form on stainless steel and none on copper. The formation of residues and their variability are explained by modeling the evaporation process considering the presence of nonvolatile solutes on substrates and substrate thermal conductivity. Such variability is consistent with the survivability of SARS-CoV-2 measured on these surfaces. We hypothesize that these long-lasting microscale residues can potentially insulate the virus against environmental changes, allowing them to survive and remain infectious for extended durations.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We acknowledge the support from the University of Minnesota for this research. We would also like to thank Dr. David Pui for the equipment support, Dr. Suo Yang and Dr. Lei Feng for fruitful discussion of the results, and Barbara Heitkamp for help in editing this manuscript.
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