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An experimental study of evaporation waves in a superheated liquid


Hill, Larry Glenn (1991) An experimental study of evaporation waves in a superheated liquid. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology.


NOTE: Text or symbols not renderable in plain ASCII are indicated by [...]. Abstract is included in .pdf document. Evaporation waves in superheated liquids are studied using a rapid-depressurization facility consisting of a vertical glass test cell situated beneath a large, low-pressure reservoir. The objective of this study is to learn more about the physical mechanisms of explosive boiling (of which an evaporation wave is a specific example), as well as properties of the flow it produces. The test cell is initially sealed from the reservoir by a foil diaphragm, and is partially filled with a volatile liquid (Refrigerant 12 or 114). An experiment is initiated by rupturing the diaphragm via a pneumatically driven cutter. The instrumentation consists of fast-response pressure measurements, high-speed motion pictures, and spark-illuminated still photographs. The liquid temperature is typically 20°C; the liquid superheat is controlled by setting the reservoir pressure to values between vacuum and 1 atm. The pressures subsequent to depressurization are very much less than the critical pressure, and the initial temperatures are sufficiently low that, although the test liquid is highly superheated, the superheat limit is not approached. Evaporation waves in which bubble nucleation within the liquid column is suppressed entirely are considered almost exclusively. When the diaphragm is ruptured, the liquid pressure drops to virtually the reservoir value within a few milliseconds. Provided that the liquid superheat so obtained is sufficiently high, the free surface then erupts in a process known as explosive boiling, which is characterized by violent, fine-scale fragmentation of the superheated liquid and extremely rapid evaporation. The explosive boiling process proceeds as a "wavefront" into the liquid column, producing a highspeed, two-phase flow that travels upward into the low-pressure reservoir, emptying the test cell in a few hundred milliseconds. The speed of the wavefront varies between 0.2 and 0.6 m/s, depending on run conditions; the corresponding two-phase flow varies between about 5 and 35 m/s. In the highest superheat case for the more volatile liquid (Refrigerant 12), explosive boiling usually initiates by the rapid formation of nucleation sites at random spots on the liquid free surface and at the glass/free-surface contact line. Boiling spreads to the remaining surface within 160 [...]. In the highest superheat case for the less volatile liquid (Refrigerant 114), nucleation begins only at the glass/free-surface contact line. Boiling then spreads radially inward toward the center. In the lower superheated cases for both liquids, nucleation begins at one or more sites on the glass/free-surface contact line, and propagates across the free surface. At the higher superheats, explosive boiling initiates within a few milliseconds from diaphragm burst, the same time scale as that of liquid depressurization. No distinction is made between the onset of nucleation and that of explosive boiling. However, if the reservoir pressure is raised above a certain approximate value, the onset of explosive boiling is delayed. During the delay period, relatively slow bubbling (initiated at one or more nucleation sites at the glass/free-surface contact line) occurs, and a cluster of bubbles forms in the vicinity of the initial site. The bubble cluster then "explodes," marking the transition to explosive boiling. The delay period increases significantly as the reservoir pressure is raised slightly further. Reservoir pressures corresponding to a delay period of order 100 ms define an approximate self-start threshold pressure, above which the transition to explosive boiling does not occur. Within about 10 ms of initiation, the wave reaches a quasi-steady condition in which the average wave speed, two-phase flow speed, and base and exit pressures are constant. However, the instantaneous propagation rate and the mechanisms that generate the mean flow are observed to be highly nonsteady. The wavefront appears to propagate by heterogeneous bubble nucleation at its leading edge, and any given region of the wavefront tends to propagate in surges associated with new nucleation and/or very fine-scale surface perturbations. Measurements of the instantaneous position of the upstream tip of the wavefront indicate that local velocity fluctuations are the same order as the mean velocity. The leading-edge bubble lifetimes and diameters are statistically distributed; mean values are of order 1 ms and 1 mm, respectively. The leading-edge bubbles are fragmented in violent "bursts" of aerosol. Bursts have a tendency to sweep over the leading-edge bubble layer in a wavelike manner: They are "large-scale structures" associated with the fragmentation of many bubbles. Fragmentation, rapid evaporation, flow acceleration, and pressure drop occur primarily within about 1 cm of the leading edge. Downstream of this region, the average speed and appearance of the flow are virtually constant. This developed flow is a highly nonuniform, two-phase spray containing streaklike structures. Its liquid phase is composed of drops (with a maximum diameter of about 100 [...]), as well as clusters and chains of bubbles (with a diameter of a few hundred microns). A thin liquid layer begins climbing the wall upon wave initiation. Its speed is a few m/s-significantly slower than that of the two-phase flow through the center. Exit pressure measurements indicate that the flow chokes for sufficiently low reservoir pressure; at higher reservoir pressures the flow is unchoked. The self-start threshold is not a propagation threshold, as waves are observed to propagate at somewhat lower superheats if started artificially. This is accomplished in Refrigerant 114 by "jump-starting" the wave, using the more volatile Refrigerant 12. For sufficiently high reservoir pressures, an "absolute" threshold is reached at which the quasi-steady rapid evaporation processes break down. Possible mechanisms for explosive boiling are discussed in light of the present results. While neither of the two previous schools of thought (interfacial instability hypotheses and the secondary nucleation hypothesis) are alone adequate to explain the observed behavior, there is evidence that both may play a role. It is here proposed that the bursting phenomenon and bubble nucleation at the wavefront leading edge are mutually interactive processes-bursting occurring as the violent breakup of interstitial bubble liquid, and nucleation (and fine-scale perturbations) being caused by burst-generated aerosol striking the leading-edge surface. It is not understood what role interfacial instability may play in the bursting process. An evaporation wave is analogous to a premixed flame in that both are classified as "weak deflagration" waves in gasdynamic theory. It is shown that using several approximations that are valid for the type of evaporation waves studied, the conservation equations (jump conditions) can be reduced to a single, simple expression in terms of readily measured and inferred properties.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:BLEVES; evaporation waves; explosive boiling; rapid evaporation; Vapor explosions; vaporization waves
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Major Option:Aeronautics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Thesis Committee:
  • Sturtevant, Bradford (chair)
Defense Date:23 May 1990
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-10242005-103224
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:4229
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:24 Oct 2005
Last Modified:04 Mar 2014 20:09

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