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Shock Waves

• Shock waves are very small regions in the gas where the gas
properties change by a large amount.
• Across a shock wave, the static pressure, temperature, and gas
density increases almost instantaneously.
• Because a shock wave does no work, and there is no heat addition,
the total enthalpy and the total temperature are constant.
• The flow is not isentropic in a shock wave because friction or shear
stress cause the flow to be internally irreversible.
• The total pressure downstream of the shock is always less than the
total pressure upstream of the shock.
• Because total pressure changes across the shock, we can not use the
usual (incompressible) form of Bernoulli's equation across the shock.
• The Mach number and speed of the flow also decrease across a
shock wave.
• Shock wave relations are derived by considering the conservation of
mass, momentum, and energy, for a compressible gas.
Moving shock wave

• If a moving source of sound moves at the same speed as sound, then

the source will always be at the leading edge of the waves that it
• The circular lines represent compressional
wavefronts of the sound waves.
Notice that these circles are bunched up
at the front of the aircraft.
This phenomenon is known as a shock wave.
• If a moving source of sound moves faster than sound, the source will
always be ahead of the waves that it produces.
• Note that the circular compressional wavefronts fall behind the faster
moving aircraft.
• A sonic boom occurs as the result of the piling up of compressional
wavefronts along the conical edge of the wave pattern. These
compressional wavefronts pile up and interfere to produce a very
high-pressure zone.
Stationary normal shock
• In supersonic flow, the flow moves faster than the speed of sound.
• Recall that the speed of sound is the speed at which information is
transmitted throughout the continuum.
• So a fluid particle that is supersonic cannot see what is coming up
• So it doesn’t have a chance to gradually slow down according to
downstream conditions.
• You are now committed to a sudden, discontinuous change resulting
in an increase in pressure and temperature, and a loss of speed. This
is the basic idea of shock wave.
• When the flow at the nozzle throat is choked. There are two possible
• When Pb is equal the supersonic back pressure, the flow will obey the
supersonic solution.
And similarly, when Pb is equal to the subsonic back pressure the flow
will remain subsonic.
• What happens for intermediate pressure?
• the flow starts out by accelerating to supersonic after the nozzle throat.
Once the flow is supersonic, it cannot receive any communication from
the flow ahead of it. Why?
• Because (again) communication between fluid particles is at the speed of
• So here we have a fluid particle being accelerated in a diverging section,
with a downstream boundary condition that it cannot meet.
• A normal shock is produced at some point in the diverging section of the
nozzle, resulting in sudden rise in pressure.
• If a supersonic flow never encounters something downstream, like an
obstacle or a back pressure, it will never shock.