Shock-induced kinetics and cellular structures of liquid nitromethane detonation

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Using a combination of high-speed diagnostics, optical pyrometry, velocimetry and video photography, we examine the spatiotemporal reaction kinetics of a prototypical high-energy explosive, liquid nitromethane (NM), as we drive this high explosive into detonation. The detonations were initiated by powerful shock waves whose durations (4 ns) were shorter than the characteristic time associated with the reaction (7 ns). Simple optical spectroscopy alone cannot characterize the kinetics with high time resolution because the reactants and products are flowing at a high velocity of ~6 km/s (6 µm/ns). Every detection volume behind the shock front contains material initiated over a range of times. High spatial resolution can be obtained by probing interfaces where the shock enters or breaks out of the NM. In addition, we obtain cellular patterns imprinted on the luminous shock front by the two-stage explosion in NM. These spatiotemporal patterns arise naturally as a result of the asymmetry produced by the moving shock front. In this way the shock front serves as a thin moving intrinsic optical gage that reports and characterizes the two-stage NM explosion behind the front.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-12
Number of pages8
JournalCombustion and Flame
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Cellular structures
  • Nitromethane
  • Shock-to-detonation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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