Detonation on a tabletop: Nitromethane with high time and space resolution

Mithun Bhowmick, Erin J. Nissen, Dana D. Dlott

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Nitromethane (NM), a flammable liquid, has been a model system for the shock-to-detonation transition in homogeneous condensed-phase explosives for over 50 years, but we do not understand the fast processes at the molecular scale in the detonation front at the molecular scale. That is largely because prior studies triggered detonations in bomb-sized charges with input shock durations and times-to detonation that were typically microseconds, which made it impossible to observe the faster processes in real time. We studied NM shocked with 4 ns duration input pulses using a tabletop apparatus with laser-launched flyer plates and arrays of tiny disposable optical cuvettes, where the pressure and temperature were probed in real time (1 ns) with photon Doppler velocimetry, optical pyrometry, and high-speed video. Using a 4 ns shock with an input pressure close to the von Neumann spike pressure of 19 GPa, we achieved the minimum time-to-detonation, about 12 ns, where the time-to-detonation is controlled by fundamental molecular processes. We demonstrated the reproducibility of our detonations and showed that they had the same properties as in bomb-sized charges: our detonation velocity, von Neumann spike and Chapman-Jouguet pressures, temperatures, and reaction zone lengths were the same as in bomb-sized charges. Being able to trigger realistic reproducible detonations from a short pulse makes it possible to investigate molecular and fluid dynamics in the detonation by measuring transient responses in real time. We found that it took 6 ns for the temperature to reach 3430 K. The high pressure was observed at about 8 ns, when there was a volume explosion to nearly twice the von Neumann spike pressure before settling down to a steady detonation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number075901
JournalJournal of Applied Physics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Aug 21 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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