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 "underwater explosion"

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 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)

Sudden changes in the pressure or temperature in a liquid can create bubbles in a process known as cavitation. Underwater explosions are just one of the ways to induce cavitation in a liquid. As identified in the above video, the shock waves traveling through the liquid force a change in pressure that creates bubbles. When these bubbles collapse, the container is subjected to an enormous oscillation in pressure, which often results in damage. The same phenomenon is responsible for damage on boat propellers as well as this beer bottle smashing trick. Check out these other high-speed videos of cavitation in a bottle: (Video credit: Destin/Smarter Every Day; submitted by Juan S.)

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)

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)