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An Explosion’s Shock Wave, Frozen in Time

This photograph comes from Defense Research and Development Canada, and it shows the instant when a shock wave takes off. Eventually, these astonishing features form when a wave is stirring faster than the speed of sound, and they usually comprise a remarkable amount of energy. In fact, the leading cause of destruction from a detonation (like a bomb that is released during wartime) is often the supersonic discharge that is linked with the blast. They comprise so much energy that some have recommended we use this occurrence in space travel. Known as a pulse detonation engine (PDE), these devices would, hypothetically, let spacecrafts to travel using less power. Air Force chief researcher, Dr. Mark Lewis, proclaims that the science is sound, but it is not clear whether or not the outcomes would actually make the technology a reasonable investment. “Honestly, the scientific jury is still out on PDE’s and their derivatives, but this is definitely a worthwhile area for future research.”
Image credit: Defence Research and Development Canada

Lewis carry on by clarifying why, in spite of the fact that the theory is sound to the extent that the elementary science goes (meaning that they would work), researchers don’t know that the added efficiency would actually be an important factor:

“The thermodynamic cycle they use would certainly be more efficient than a typical jet engine cycle; a jet burns its fuel and adds its heat at a constant pressure (or nearly so) whereas a PDE adds heat at a constant volume – very similar to an automobile engine. It can be shown from fundamental principles that you get more useful work when you add heat at constant volume than at constant pressure…however, a PDE by its very nature would not be a constant burning process, rather an intermittent process (think of a series of detonations, one after the other). That could put extra stress on engine components, makes it difficult to harness the combustion effects for efficient propulsion, and can also be difficult to initiate.”

See more incredible explosion images in the below video:

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