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On the Start Up of Supersonic Underexpanded Jets


Lacerda, Nehemias Lima (1987) On the Start Up of Supersonic Underexpanded Jets. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/W3CX-2Z48.


An impulsively started jet can be formed by a gas confined in a high pressure reservoir that escapes suddenly through an exit orifice, into a controlled atmosphere. Supersonic gas jets of this type are unsteady and differ from the steady jet that develops later by the presence of a bow shock, a jet head and a nonstationary Mach disk. The effects of the pressure ratio between the high pressure gas inside the reservoir and the lower pressure atmospheric gas, as well as the gas combination used, are studied experimentally. The gases used for the jet and the atmosphere were selected from helium, nitrogen and sulfur hexafluoride.

The data acquisition consisted of: high resolution flash photography to obtain detail from the pictures; high-speed movie pictures to obtain the time development of selected features; and fast-response pressure transducers located at the reservoir end plate, the tank end plate and the jet exit. The initial development of the jet is highly time dependent. During this phase, the shape that the jet assumes varies with pressure ratio and with the choice of gas. In particular an extremely light gas exhausting into a heavy atmosphere, exhibits an uncommon shape. It develops as a bubble wrapped by the bow shock, that increases its volume with flow time and pressure ratio. As the pressure ratio increases, it becomes more tightly wrapped by the bow shock. At later times the jet assumes conventional linear growth.

After the jet starts, a Mach disk is observed close to the jet exit which moves downstream as the exit pressure builds up. The monotonic increase in exit pressure is caused by the slow breaking of the diaphragm. The position of the Mach disk is furthest from the jet exit when the exit pressure is a maximum. After that it oscillates around the location predicted by the steady theory of Ashkenas and Sherman (1966) at a frequency close to one of the resonant frequencies of the reservoir. The features observed for the inner structure of the jet were verified to agree with those obtained for impulsive flow generated by a muzzle blast.

The frontal part of the jet forms the jet head, whose shape changes with the flow conditions. The initial evolution of the jet head is linear but after propagating a distance of around ten exit diameters, it reaches asymptotic behavior with an evolution that is approximately proportional to square root of time. The head creates a bow shock ahead of it that propagates downstream and increases the pressure of the atmospheric gas. This bow shock was found to be less attenuated than in spherically symmetric explosions. The asymptotic behavior of the bow shock was reached after about eight exit diameters.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Jet start; Mach disk; shock waves; sudden expansion; supersonic flow; transient jets; unsteady shock waves
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)
  • Roshko, Anatol
  • Zukoski, Edward E.
  • Culick, Fred E. C.
  • Hall, John F.
Defense Date:22 August 1986
Non-Caltech Author Email:nehemias (AT)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-03042008-081340
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:865
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:14 Mar 2008
Last Modified:21 Dec 2019 04:09

Thesis Files

PDF (Lacerda_nl_1987.pdf) - Final Version
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