A Caltech Library Service

On the Interaction of Shock Waves with Contact Surfaces Between Gases of Different Densities


Brouillette, Martin (1989) On the Interaction of Shock Waves with Contact Surfaces Between Gases of Different Densities. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/9JGS-ZX78.


The interaction of shock waves with a contact surface between gases of different densities has been studied experimentally and theoretically. The basic mechanism for the instability of perturbations at the interface is baroclinic vorticity generation resulting from the misalignment of the pressure gradient of the shock and the density gradient of the interface. In the present study, the effects of interface density contrast and initial thickness, and incident wave strength on the development of the instability at the interface are investigated. The experiments were performed in a new vertical shock tube facility where the interaction of a shock wave with either a discontinuous interface, formed by a thin (0.5 µm) plastic membrane, or a continuous interface, created by retracting a metal plate initially separating the two gases, was studied. Air was used on one side of the interface and either helium, carbon dioxide, refrigerant-22 or sulphur hexafluoride was used on the other side as the test gas.

Experiments to study the time evolution of quasi-sinusoidal perturbations on a continuous interface have shown that the growth rates are reduced as the interface thickness is increased. It has been observed that growth rates of perturbations of wavelength λ ~ 25 mm on interfaces of thickness δ ~ 10 mm are about three times smaller than those predicted by the linear theory for the impulsive acceleration of discontinuous interfaces. A new model that accounts for the growth rate reduction caused by the presence of a finite density gradient on the interface has been proposed, and good agreement was obtained with the present experimental results.

Experiments were also performed to observe the schlieren visual thickness of plane discontinuous or continuous interfaces with random small-scale perturbations after interaction with the incident shock wave and its reverberations. The interface was initially located near the end wall of the shock tube to permit the observation of the development of the interface phenomena after the arrival of the incident shock and its reverberations. It is found that the interaction of a shock wave with a discontinuous interface causes the appearance of a turbulent mixing zone between the two gases, whose growth rate slows down as time increases, owing to a decrease in turbulence intensity and the action of viscosity. Because of the large uncertainty associated with the measurements a short time after the interaction with the incident shock, the accurate determination of a possible universal power law governing the thickening of the interface is not feasible. Results for the interaction of the first reverberation of the primary wave with the already turbulent interface have demonstrated that this growth is sensitive to the initial pre-growth state of the interface. It also appears that the thickening of the turbulent mixing zone is accomplished by the merging of large structures within the interface. However, since the energy available for the turbulent motions at the impulsively accelerated interface remains constant after the interaction with the shock and also depends on the wavelength of the initial perturbation, it is not certain whether the development of mixing at the interface achieves an asymptotic stage of self-similar turbulence independent of initial conditions, as has been observed for the gravity-driven interfaces. Also, it has been found that the growth rates measured in the present experiments with discontinuous interfaces are nearly an order of magnitude lower than those reported by previous investigators. The continuous interfaces formed by the retracting plate are smoothed by molecular diffusion, and thus the combination of low density gradient and small initial perturbations is such that they exhibit growth only after being perturbed by acoustic noise introduced by the reverberation of waves between the interface, the side walls and the end of the shock tube.

The development of viscous boundary layers on the side walls of the test section can cause the bifurcation of waves reflected from the end wall of the shock tube, and, thereafter, the formation of wall bubbles and interface contaminating jets. Moreover, the generation of vortical structures by the baroclinic instability excited by the interaction of reflected waves with the distorted interface within the boundary layer has been demonstrated. Significant contamination of the test gas can by achieved by these structures, even if reflected-wave bifurcation is absent. Moreover, the strain induced by the vorticity in these wall structures tends to thin the interface; the magnitude of this effect on the growth rates in the present plane interface experiments is estimated to be of order 10% for discontinuous interfaces and 50% for continuous interfaces.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Shock waves; contact surfaces; gases; densities
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Aeronautics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Sturtevant, Bradford
Thesis Committee:
  • Sturtevant, Bradford (chair)
  • Dimotakis, Paul E.
  • Elachi, Charles
  • Hornung, Hans G.
  • Meiron, Daniel I.
Defense Date:19 May 1989
Non-Caltech Author Email:martin.brouillette (AT)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Department of Energy (DOE)DOE W-7405-ENG-48
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-10302003-102505
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:4315
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:10 Nov 2003
Last Modified:01 May 2020 00:07

Thesis Files

PDF - Final Version
See Usage Policy.


Repository Staff Only: item control page