Dr. Tony Saad, University of Utah

How We Used CFD and Supercomputers to Help the Utah Symphony Perform Safely During the COVID-19 Pandemic
January 22, 2021


The COVID-19 outbreak and ensuing shutdown have caused a significant impact on the economic productivity and well-being of everyone around the world. The “creative” economy was particularly impacted - with the performing arts industries, such as choirs and orchestras, being the most affected with estimated losses of almost 1.4 million jobs and $42.5 billion in sales. While masking can be an effective strategy to inhibit the spread of the virus in the general population, it is impractical to mask wind instruments and vocalists. In May 2020, the Utah Symphony approached our team to better understand if modeling can help in developing a COVID-19 mitigation strategy for them. Because COVID-19 is primarily spread via respiratory aerosol emissions, modeling its transport using CFD can be part of a general risk mitigation strategy. In this talk, I will discuss how we used high-resolution CFD calculations along with concentration transport to model the dispersion of wind-instrument emissions for the Utah Symphony at Abravanel Hall and Capitol Theater. Our proposed mitigation strategies included (1) changing the airflow by manipulating the HVAC, opening doors, and building ducts to reroute the air, and (2) rearranging the orchestra. This resulted in an effective reduction of particle concentration by a factor of 100 in the breathing zone of the stage area. Our work shows that risk mitigation of pathogen transport is not complete without a detailed understanding of the fluid dynamics and droplet transport at a given venue.


Dr. Tony Saad

Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Utah and specializes in all facets of engineering and scientific computing with particular emphasis on turbulent reacting flows and transport phenomena. He received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Tennessee Space Institute. His recent work has culminated in the development of low-cost high-accuracy Navier-Stokes solvers that are over 40% cheaper than conventional methods. In addition, he is passionate about developing engineering software for educational and practical applications including a tool for turbulence model verification and initialization, a numerical stability utility, and many others. He also serves as the chair of the engineering math committee at the University of Utah.