Wildfires damage millions of acres of land per year in the United States alone. Using explosives to put out an uncontrolled wildfire sounds a bit crazy, but it’s actually not that far-fetched. The animations above are taken from high-speed footage of a propane fire interacting with a blast wave. The first animation shows what the human eye would see, and the second is a shadowgraph video, a technique which highlights differences in density and makes the flame’s convection and the blast wave itself visible. At close range, the shock wave from the explosion and the high-speed gas behind it push the flames away from their fuel source, stopping combustion almost immediately. For a flame farther away from the blast, the shock wave introduces turbulent disturbances that can destabilize the flame. Much work remains to be done before the technique could be scaled from the laboratory to the field, but it is an exciting concept. You can read more about the work here. (Research credit: G. Doig/UNSW Australia; original videos: here and here; submitted by @CraigOverend)
Underwater explosions are, in general, much more dangerous than those in air. This video shows an underwater blast at 30,000 fps. During the initial blast, a hot sphere of gas expands outward in a shock wave. In air, some of the energy of this pressure wave would be dissipated by compressing the air. Since water is incompressible, however, the blast instead moves water aside as the bubble expands. Eventually, the bubble expands to the point where its pressure is less than that of the water around it, which causes the bubble to collapse. But the collapse increases the gas pressure once more, kicking off a series of expansions and collapses. Each bubble contains less energy than the previous, thanks to the loss of pushing the water aside. (Video credit: K. Kitagawa)
Underwater explosions often behave non-intuitively. Here researchers explore the effects of surface explosions by setting off charges at the air/water interface. Initially, an unconfined explosion’s blast wave expands a cavity radially into the water. This cavity collapses back toward the surface from the bottom up, ultimately resulting in a free jet that rebounds above the water level. Confined explosions behave very differently, expanding down the glass tube containing them in a one-dimensional fashion. The cavity never extends beyond the end of the glass tube, likely due to hydrostatic pressure. (Video credit: Adrien Benusiglio, David Quéré, Christophe Clanet)
When a projectile is fired from a gun or other firearm, it is propelled by the expansion of high-temperature, high-pressure gases resulting from the combustion of a propellant, like gunpowder, inside the weapon. The explosive expansion of these gases transfers momentum to the bullet; however, the gases will continue to expand outward from the gun even after the bullet is fired. They do so in the form of a supersonicblast wave; it’s this blast wave that’s responsible for the noise of the firearm. Firing a gun underwater is one way to see the blast wave, though it is far from the only way. In fact, a blast wave viewed underwater is not equivalent to one in air. The differences in density and compressibility between the two fluids mean that, while the general form may be similar, the specifics and the results may not be. In general, a blast wave underwater is much more damaging than one in air. (Video credit: destinsw2/Smarter Every Day; requested by nikhilism)
During explosions, solid particles and liquids packed around the explosive charges can form jets, making a blast wave appear more porcupine-like than spherical. The instability mechanisms that cause this behavior are not well-understood, but researchers suspect the jets are formed due to perturbations in the particle bed on the timescale of the initial shock propagation. The presence of these jets can affect the blast wave’s subsequent growth as well as the mixing in its wake. The number of jets produced depends on many factors, including particle type, the geometry of the charge, the ratio of explosive to particles, and even whether the particles are wet or dry. Note the very different natures of the explosions in the video when shown side by side. (Video credit: D. Frost et al)
This clip shows high-speed video footage of a blackpowder explosion. As the blast wave expands, the surrounding air is heated, which changes its index of refraction. The strength of this change is great enough that we can distinguish the edges of the expanding shockwave by the visual distortion they cause to the view beyond the explosion.
As powerful as explosions can be above ground, they are even more dangerous underwater. Since water, unlike air, is incompressible, the pressure wave at the front of an underwater explosion is not damped to the extent it would be in air. A high-pressure, high-temperature bubble of gas also forms in the explosion, and, as with cavitation, if the bubble collapses near metal, the damage can be extensive. (via Gizmodo)