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I. Development of a Cryogenic Shock Tube. II. Experimental Investigation of the Interaction of a Shock Wave with Liquid Helium and I and II


Cummings, John Chester (1973) I. Development of a Cryogenic Shock Tube. II. Experimental Investigation of the Interaction of a Shock Wave with Liquid Helium and I and II. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/AM0F-DB64.


I. Development of a cryogenic shock tube

A cryogenic shock tube has been developed as a tool for research in fluid mechanics and low temperature physics. The shock tube is designed to operate with the test section immersed in a cryogenic liquid. A unique diaphragm changing mechanism makes this shock tube an economical and practical device.

There are several advantages in operating a shock tube at cryogenic temperatures. Shock waves of very large Mach number can be produced. The flow field can be accurately calculated using ideal shock tube - perfect gas theory. Boundary layer effects are decreased so that long test times are possible.

The cases which have been studied are test gas temperatures of 300, 77, 4.2, and 2.3°K. Helium is used as both test and driver gas. The largest Mach numbers which have been observed range from 2.4 at 300°K to 32 at 2.3°K (several runs at 1.46°K have produced Mach 40 shocks). As the test gas temperature is decreased the observed Mach numbers approach those calculated using the ideal shock tube equation. The observed test times can be interpreted using laminar or turbulent boundary layer theory if the effects of shock formation distance and wall temperature rise are taken into account.

As a laboratory tool the cryogenic shock tube may be applied in many areas and modified for use in even more. Large Mach number shocks and large Reynolds number flows can be produced with this device. The rapid increase in temperature and pressure across a shock wave is useful for studies of sublimation, evaporation, or chemical reactions. Quantum mechanical effects in cryogenic materials, superconductors, or superfluid helium can also be investigated.

II. Experimental investigation of the interaction of a shock wave with liquid helium I and II

The flow field produced by a shock wave reflecting from a helium gas -liquid interface has been investigated using a new cryogenic shock tube. Incident and reflected shock waves have been observed in the gas; transmitted first and second sound shocks have been observed in the liquid. Wave diagrams have been constructed to compare the data to theoretical wave trajectories. Qualitative agreement between data and theory has been shown. Quantitative differences between data and theory indicate a need for further analysis of both the gas-liquid interface and the propagation of nonlinear waves in liquid helium.

This work is essentially a first step in the experimental investigation of a very complex nonequilibrium state. The well controlled jump in temperature and pressure across the incident shock wave provides unique initial conditions for the study of dynamic phenomena in superfluid helium.

The results clearly demonstrate the usefulness of the cryogenic shock tube as a research tool.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:(Aeronautics) ; High Mach Number shock waves, second sound shock waves in LHe II
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Aeronautics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Liepmann, Hans Wolfgang
Thesis Committee:
  • Liepmann, Hans Wolfgang (chair)
  • Sturtevant, Bradford
  • Babcock, Charles D.
  • Goodstein, David L.
  • Cohen, Donald S.
Defense Date:11 May 1973
Non-Caltech Author Email:jccummi (AT)
Additional Information:Title varies slightly in 1973 Commencement program: "I. Development of a Cryogenic Shock Tube. II. Experimental Investigation of the Interaction of a Shock Wave with LHe and I and II".
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:10072010-095321580
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:6115
Deposited By: Dan Anguka
Deposited On:07 Oct 2010 18:04
Last Modified:11 Aug 2021 19:52

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