CSU Aerosol Emissions Study

Reducing Bioaerosol Emissions and Exposures in the Performing Arts: A Scientific Roadmap for a Safe Return from COVID19


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advocates maintaining six feet from others to prevent the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19); however, this is based on expected airborne particles emitted during regular breathing.

Performance artists are more likely to display forced-air breathing (i.e., singing, playing musical instruments or dancing, among other artistic expressions), which is more like sneezing and coughing.  While data is lacking, there is developing consensus that infectious aerosolized particles containing SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 are partly responsible for global spread. According to one recent study, the transmission distance of SARS-CoV-2 may be more than 13 feet (https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.200885).

Unfortunately, many infected individuals do not realize they are infected; and group activities such as choir, dance, acting, or instrument ensembles increase the risk of spread. Solutions are needed to reduce the risk of viral spread during performances and group practice settings.

Headed by a multi-disciplinary team of leading researchers at Colorado State University, this proposal aims to quantify the problem and more importantly, identify mitigating strategies to reduce infectious spread.


Scientific Advisory Board

The Facilities at Colorado State University

SET facility

Environmental Testing (SET) facility

The Powerhouse Energy Campus contains a unique, simulated environmental testing (SET) facility for studying human aerosol emissions and exposures in a clean, versatile environment. The SET facility is one of only a handful like it in the world and has advanced capabilities to measure and analyze aerosolized particles. Data are automatically recorded by a custom-built computer control and data acquisition system. In addition, the Volckens research group houses over $2M in sophisticated aerosol research equipment for the determination of aerosol size, concentration, and chemical composition.


The goal of this research is to reduce the risk of human exposure and co-infection during performing arts events and rehearsals.

The specific objectives of this project are to:

  1. Understand aerosol release and distance traveled during heavy breathing, movement, vocalization (singing & acting), and playing a range of instruments.
  2. Identify solutions to reduce aerosol release and spread while artists perform their craft.
  3. Develop guidance documents that can be used across a range of artistic disciplines


This project will provide a robust, scientifically rigorous dataset to develop solutions addressing aerosol spread during artistic performances. Findings will inform guidelines aimed at reducing risks to artists for use by performing arts national and international governance bodies.

Major Supporters:

Lead Supporters:


Valued Donors:

  • Richard C. and Toni C. Atkinson
  • Susan Baker
  • Lisa Baldwin
  • Eleanor D. Barrett and Margaret E. Cottam
  • William and Stephanie Barth
  • David Betz and Lynn Scott
  • Douglas Boyer
  • Aubree Brasser
  • Myra Brown
  • Beatrice Chetard
  • Jennifer Clippert
  • College Orchestra Directors Association
  • Colorado Flute Association
  • Tim and Wendi Davis
  • Ann R. Donoghue
  • Don and Cynthia Dotson
  • Mark Douglass
  • Nick and Amy Drabik
  • Anonymous
  • Catherine Flannery
  • Flute Plus
  • Jim and Julie Gatesman
  • Elena Georgieva
  • David Hahn
  • Utah Hamrick
  • Cindy Haraway
  • Leslie Harrington
  • Jennifer L. Holz and Georgia Peeples
  • Karen L. Howat
  • Ryan Hyde
  • Nancy Jianakoplos
  • George and Laura G. Jones
  • Richard Kellogg
  • Harry W. Kenney and Leslie L. Stewart
  • Evan Key
  • William Kingren
  • Robert A. and Lisa G. Kreutz
  • Ira Kroll
  • Fred W. Jacobs and Jennifer Clary
  • Arthur T. and Sheri L. Linnell
  • Manchester Choral Society
  • National Catholic Band Association
  • Megan S. Miller
  • Randy D. Moench and Emily H. Thurston-Moench
  • Tim Oliver
  • Karen Olsen and Guada Bautista
  • Jan Opalach
  • Douglas and Kathleen M. Payne
  • Edward and Laura Piechota
  • Flute Plus
  • Janet M. Puckett
  • David W. and Louann Reid
  • Randy Rosette
  • Greg and Jane Sandstrom
  • Molly Sayles
  • Belinda and Elisa Shreckengost
  • Craig E. and Lorraine L. Shuler
  • Peter R. and Linda E. Sommer
  • Lisa Soo
  • Erin Spencer
  • Steven T. and Kellie A. Sponberg
  • Cary C. Stewart
  • Susquehanna Chorale
  • Steven and Monica Szalaj
  • Adam A. Torres and Michael Schreier
  • Gayle Treber, '71, '87
  • Theodore and Malia Van Rooy
  • Kirsten Wells
  • Nina Zheng

Your Gift

Your contribution will immediately provide for:

  • Salary for project staff (one graduate student, one postdoc, one research scientist)
  • Research supplies
  • Calibration and maintenance of equipment
  • Open access publication fees (to make the data/results freely accessible)