There’s a strange wave phenomenon that’s plagued rocket scientists for years, a lurking threat with the power to destroy an engine at almost any time. For decades, scientists have had a limited understanding of how or why it happens because they could not replicate or investigate the problem under controlled laboratory conditions.
Scientists generally believe that these powerful and unstable sound waves, created by energy supplied by the combustion process, were the cause of rocket failures in several U.S. and Russian rockets. Scientists have also observed these mysterious oscillations in other propulsion and power-generating systems such as missiles and gas turbines.
Now, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a liquid rocket engine simulator and imaging techniques that can help demystify the cause of these explosive sound waves and bring scientists a little closer to being able to understand and prevent them. The Georgia Tech research team was able to clearly demonstrate that the phenomenon manifests itself in the form of spinning acoustic waves that gain destructive power as they rotate around the rocket’s combustion chamber.
“This is a very troublesome phenomenon in rockets,” said Ben Zinn, the David S. Lewis Jr. Chair and Regents’ Professor in the Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering at Georgia Tech. “These spinning acoustic oscillations destroy engines without anyone fully understanding how these waves are formed. Visualizing this phenomenon brings us a step closer to understanding it.”
Read the article in SCIENCE HERE.Georgia Institute of Technology (2008, April 10). How Rocket Engines Can Be Destroyed By Mysterious Sound Waves. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 15, 2008, from HERE.