Fuck Yeah Fluid Dynamics

Celebrating the physics of all that flows. Ask a question, submit a post idea or send an email. You can also follow FYFD on Twitter and Google+. FYFD is written by Nicole Sharp, PhD.

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Posts tagged "explosion"


First off, I’d like to give a special shout-out to FYFD’s friends at Pointwise, who were kind enough to invite me for a visit this week. For any readers looking for CFD grid-generation software, check them out; they are a fantastic bunch and very good at what they do.

My thanks again to everyone who donated this week to help get me to the APS conference. The campaign is still open if anyone wants to get in on the FYFD wallpapers and stickers on offer to donors. As a reminder, any funds beyond conference costs will go toward improving FYFD, including getting equipment to make FYFD videos. On to the fluids round-up!

(Photo credit: L. Gilman)

Holidays involving fireworks deserve high-speed videos of hydrogen explosions. Although Periodic Table of Videos focuses on the chemistry involved in setting hydrogen on fire, there are some lovely fluid dynamics on display, too. There’s turbulence, combustion (obviously), and, if you watch closely, you can even see the initial vorticity caused by the rubber’s burst twisting the growing flames. (Video credit: Periodic Table of Videos)

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 supersonic blast 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)

Accidental releases of combustible gases in unconfined spaces can be difficult to recreate in a laboratory environment.  Here researchers simulate the conditions using detonation inside a soap film bubble. Combustible gases are pumped inside the soap film and then a spark creates ignition. The resulting flame propagation is visualized using high-speed schlieren photography, making the density gradients in the flame visible. When the mixture of hydrogen fuel to air is balanced, the flame is spherically symmetric with a high flame speed.  In contrast, weaker mixtures of fuel/air produce slow flame speeds and mushroom-like flames that leave behind unreacted fuel.  This is due to buoyant effects; the time scale associated with buoyancy is smaller than that of the flame speed and chemical reactions when the fuel/air mixture is lean.  (Video credit: L. Leblanc et al.)

In 1915, the early days of submarine warfare, the RMS Lusitania was sunk off the coast of Ireland by a torpedo. Eyewitnesses reported a second, more powerful explosion just after the torpedo strike—possibly a boiler or powder explosion—that contributed to the ship sinking in only 18 minutes, resulting in nearly 1200 lives lost. Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have tackled the historic mystery, combining computational efforts with experimentation and historical research to reconstruct the physics of what happened. The full documentary airs tonight on the National Geographic Channel as "Dark Secrets of the Lusitania". (submitted by Stephanie N)

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)

Watch closely in this high-speed video of a bomb exploding and you will see the spherical blast wave moving outward as a visual distortion. The increase in temperature caused by the leading shockwave changes the index of refraction of the air, bending the light and distorting our view of the background. The mechanism is similar to schlieren photography, which has been used for more than a century to capture images of compressible flows.

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)