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Chapter 7 Supersonic ows and shocks

In the previous chapters we have already been confronted with the concept of shock wave, both in simple systems such as Burgers equations or trafc ow equations, as well as in full hydrodynamic systems. Supersonic ows in multiple dimensions have a much richer structure than just standard frontal shocks. In this chapter we will go deeper into the physical and mathematical character of supersonic ows in multiple dimensions. Much of what is discussed here follows the book by Liepman & Roshko Elements of Gas Dynamics (Dover Publications, Mineola, New York).

7.1 Oblique shocks

In 2-D and 3-D supersonic ow congurations shock waves are often oblique, i.e. the velocity of the ow is not perpendicular to the shock wave. For a perpendicular shock wave we have the following identities (see Chapter 1):
2 2 u1 ( + 1)M1 = = 2 1 u2 ( 1)M1 +2 2 2M1 1 P2 = P1 +1 +1 2 2 + ( 1)M1 2 M2 = 2 2M1 ( 1)

(7.1) (7.2) (7.3)

where M1 |u1 |/Cs,1 and M2 |u2 |/Cs,2 are the Mach numbers on the pre- and post-shock regions (Cs,1 , Cs,2 are the adiabatic sound speeds in the pre- and post-shock region respectively). For an oblique shock these relations only hold for the perpendicular component of the ow velocities on both sides of the shock. The parallel component remains untouched. In Fig. 7.1 the conguration of an oblique shock is shown, and the u1 and u2 are here taken to be the perpendicular parts of the full velocities w1 and w2 . Since only the perpendicular velocity component gets shocked (and therefore gets decreased), the angle of the total velocity vector gets deected away from the normal vector (toward the shock plane). This is an important property of oblique shocks, and plays a crucial role in most supersonic multi-dimensional ow congurations. We will come back to this multiple times lateron in this chapter. The Mach number M1 of the incoming ow must now be dened with respect to the total 121


v u1 v w1 w2 u2

Figure 7.1. Schematic view of an oblique shock. The shock is the vertical line in the middle. The incoming ow is on the left and the outgoing ow is on the right (after Liepman & Roshko, Dover Publications).

velocities w1 and w2 , so that we obtain: u1 /Cs,1 u1 /v u2 /Cs,2 u2 /v = = = = M1 sin tan M2 sin( ) tan( ) (7.4) (7.5) (7.6) (7.7)

where is the deection angle. From Eq. (7.4) we can immediately derive a maximum degree of obliqueness because to create a shock we should have u1 /a1 > 1 (the perpendicular component of the shock must be supersonic). The maximum obliqueness is therefore given by the minimum angle : > sin1 (1/M1 ) (7.8) Using Eqs.(7.4,7.6) we can write the jump condition for u1 ,u2 and 1 , 2 :
2 u1 ( + 1)M1 sin2 2 = = 2 1 u2 ( 1)M1 sin2 + 2


From this, using Eqs. (7.5,7.7), we obtain

2 ( 1)M1 sin2 + 2 tan( ) = 2 tan ( + 1)M1 sin2


One can verify that this relation is equivalent to the following explicit relation for (Liepmann & Roshko): 2 M1 2 sin2 1 (7.11) tan = 2 tan M1 ( + cos(2 )) + 2 It can be immediately seen that for the allowed angles for an oblique shock (sin 1 (1/M1 ) < /2) the is a positive value, which means that shock deection is always away from the normal, as expected. The shock deection angle as a function of is shown in Fig. 7.2. One sees that for 1 sin (1/M1 ) < < /2 there is indeed a solution with a non-zero deection. One also sees that there is a maximum in the deection angle.


Figure 7.2. Shock deection angle as a function of angle of oblique shock with respect to the inow , for = 7/5 as given by Eq. (7.11). The dashed line is the division line between solutions with supersonic ow after the shock (left) and subsonic ow after the shock (right).

Since the ow goes through a shock, the pressure and sound speed increase, and hence the Mach number behind the shock goes down. Without derivation (see Liepmann & Roshko) we give here the expression for the post-shock Mach number M2 :
2 M2 sin2 ( ) = 1 2 1 + M1 sin2 2 1 2 M1 sin2 2


In Fig. 7.2 the dashed line shows where M2 = 1. For small enough the post-shock solution remains supersonic while for large the post-shock solution is subsonic. This M 2 = 1 line lies very close to, but not precisely on the location of maximum .

7.2 Interesting 2-D stationary supersonic ow patterns (I)

7.2.1 Flow past a wall with sudden angle Figure 7.3 shows what happens if gas ows supersonically past a wall, where at some point the wall has a sudden change of angle. An obique shoch can deect the angle of the ow such that it continues to ow parallel to the wall after the occurance of the kink in the wall. The deection angle is then given by the geometry of the wall (the angle of the kink), and using Eq. (7.10) the angle of the shock with respect to the inowing gas can then be calculated from . Depending on M and the angle of the kink in the wall the angle of the oblique shock adapts itself automatically such that the correct deection is produced. If we now go back to Fig. 7.2 we see that if the kink angle is too large, then there will be no solution for the oblique shock solution. We will discuss this situation in Section 7.4.4. It is also clear from this gure that if there is a solution, then there are in fact two solutions. Typically this will be one solution in which the post-shock ow remains supersonic (small ) and one solution where the post-shock ow becomes subsonic (large ). Which of the two solutions is chosen by nature depends on the boundary conditions in the downstream directions. If they are open boundary conditions, then typically the solution with supersonic post-shock ow is chosen. But if there is an obstacle somewhere in the downstream region, then this may cause the solution to go into the subsonic post-shock solution. Note also that when is very close to the maximum


Figure 7.3. Supersonic ow past a wall with a sudden angle . The thin line originating in the corner of the wall is an oblique shock that deects the ow.

Figure 7.4. The ow conguration for shock reection off a solid wall.

value, it can happen that both solutions have subsonic post-shock ow, as can be seen from very careful inspection of Fig. 7.2. 7.2.2 Shock reection If an oblique shock ends on a wall, then it will be reected. The necessity of this can be easily understood by considering that the deected ow lines would otherwise intersect with the wall. Since the wall prevents uid from passing it, the ow lines must be again deected such that they go parallel to the wall again (see Fig. 7.4). The angle 2 of the second shock must be such that the deection is precisely the same - but opposite - that of the rst shock. Since, however, the Mach number of the ow after the rst shock is smaller than the original Mach number, the angle 2 is generally different from 1 . From the fact that for each Mach number there is a maximum possible deection angle (Fig. 7.2) one can see that there are situations in which there exists no possible second oblique shock to deect the ow back to the original angle. In this case a complex new ow conguration appears, see Fig. ??. Near the wall a near frontal shock appears behind which the ow is clearly subsonic. In the ow above this Mach stem a conguration similar to the normal shock reection is seen, but there the ow remains supersonic. These two post-shoc ows have different speed and they are therefore separated by a so-called slipstream (which might, far downstream, become unstable due to the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability). This ow conguration is called a Mach reection.


Figure 7.5. The ow conguration for shock reection off a solid wall in which a Mach stem appears. The dashed line is a slip-stream.

So what determines the length of the Mach stem? Since the postshock ow behind this shock (below the slipstream) is subsonic, information from the downstream direction can propagate upstream. The precise conguration of this mach reection is therefore determined by the downstream boundary conditions. Precisely how this works is highly complex and requires typically a fully numerical hydrodynamic solver.

7.3 Characteristics in space: Mach lines

A very nice feature of steady 2-D supersonic ows is that they can be described with the same techniques of characteristics as 1-D time-dependent ows. To see this, we write the 2-D Euler equations in quasi-linear form. We start from the Euler Eqs in 2-D: t + x (u) + y (v ) = 0 t (u) + x (u2 + P ) + y (uv ) = 0 t (v ) + x (uv ) + y (v 2 + P ) = 0 (7.13) (7.14) (7.15)

Let us, for simplicity assume an isothermal equation of state: P = c2 s with cs kept constant at all times. Let us dene q = (q0 , q1 , q2 ) = (, u, v ). We obtain: t q0 + x q1 + y q2 = 0 t q1 + 2ux q1 u2 x q0 + c2 s x q0 + uy q2 + vx q1 uvy q0 = 0 2 2 t q2 + 2vy q2 v y q0 + cs y q0 + vx q1 + ux q2 uvx q0 = 0 (7.16) (7.17) (7.18)

Now let us assume that the ow is for most part a steady ow in the direction (u, 0), i.e. v = 0, and that we study perturbations on this ow. Let us also assume that these perturbations are steady-state, so we can put t = 0. Then we obtain (with one substitution of x q1 by y q2 in the second equation): x q0 + u y q2 = 0 c2 s x q1 + y q2 = 0 c2 x q2 + s y q0 = 0 u u2 (7.19) (7.20) (7.21)

126 This can be written in matrix form as: 0 0 q0 x q 1 + 0 0 2 Cs q2 0 u This equation has eigenvalues 1 = 0 = 0 +1 = 1 2) 1 (u2 /Cs 1
2) (u2 /Cs

u 2 u2 Cs

q0 1 y q 1 = 0 q2 0


(7.23) (7.24) (7.25)

These eigenvalues are only real if |u| > cs , i.e. if the ow is supersonic. So for supersonic ows the equations are hyperbolic again, but this time with time t replaced by spatial coordinate x. In fact, the 1 , 0 and +1 have precisely the same meaning as the 1 , 0 and +1 of section 1.7.2 (the section on sound waves in 1-D ow): the +1 is like a sound wave propagating in positive y direction, the 1 is like a sound wave propagating in negative y direction and 0 is the massow characteristic, which is now 0 because we assumed v = 0. Of course, if we allow v to deviate from 0 (as long as it remains |v | cs ) these conclusions still hold. So we conclude that for supersonic ow (and only for supersonic ow) we can use the same techniques of characteristics as we used for the 1-D (x, t) problem but now with t replaced by x and x by y ! In 1-D time-dependent ows we have learned the power of the analysis through characteristic curves. Now that x takes the role of time and y the role of space we can analyze these 2-D supersonic ow congurations by using characteristic curves in space. These are called Mach lines. Using this picture we can now analyze some more complex stationary supersonic ow conguretions.

7.4 Interesting 2-D stationary supersonic ow patterns (II)

7.4.1 Why do supersonic airplanes have backward-pointed Delta wings? The most well-known supersonic airplane is perhaps the Concorde, which is no longer in service today. Why do such supersonic airplanes have wings that are triangular shaped? The reason is that airplane wings work usually best at subsonic speeds. If we decompose the air speed into a component perpendicular and a component parallel to the front of the wing, and the angle of the wing is large enough, then the perpendicular component of the air ow is subsonic, even though the total velocity vector is supersonic. This is the case of a subsonic leading edge. At higher Mach numbers at some point even the perpendicular component is supersonic: the case of supersonic leading edge. Exercise: Compute the required angle of the Delta wing of an airplanet if the technical requirement of a subsonic leading edge at Mach 2. 7.4.2 Supersonic ow along a wall with a gentle curve We have already seen what happens to a supersonic ow along a wall which has a sudden change of angle (Subsection 7.2.1). In the current picture of characteristics for supersonic ows we can


Figure 7.6. Supersonic ow past a wall with a gently changed angle. The thin lines show the characteristics of the supersonic ow. These characteristics converge and form a shock wave.

now understand better what happens when this sudden angle is smaller than the critical angle crit = sin1 (1/M ). In that case there will not appear an oblique shock because oblique shocks with that angle do not exist. But one can also see this in the comoving frame of the uid, where the x-coordinate acts as a surrogate of the time. In that picture the sudden movement of the wall in y direction is subsonic. This will simply create a sound wave that propagates in y direction. Now what will happen if the slope of the wall is increased gently up to beyond the critical slope? This is depicted in Fig. 7.6. Let us look at this again from the pseudo time-dependent view in the comoving frame of the uid (where x is time and y is space). The curved wall sends out sound waves to tell the ow at larger y that the wall is moving in y -direction. These are shown as characteristics in the gure. These characteristics overtake each other, forming a shock at some point. The shock wave clearly originates at some distance from the wall. 7.4.3 Supersonic ow along a wedge with afterbody Consider the supersonic ow past a wedge with an afterbody (Fig. 7.7). The wedge has a ow pattern that is now familiar: it is the same as the wall with the kind of Subsection 7.2.1. But then suddenly the angle goes back to the original one. What happens? Again this can be understood in the picture of the comoving frame with x being time and y being space. The wall acts as if it is a piston that suddenly moves (creating a shock wave) and equally suddenly stops (creating an expansion wave). Since the piston has now suddenly stopped, the shock wave is now not anymore continuously fed with energy, and therefore, once the expansion wave reaches the shock front, the shock velocity goes down and eventually decreases in strength until just a sound wave is left. Going back to the 2-D hydro picture this explains why the shock front gradually changes angle. Note that this geometry gives a nice description of the supersonic ow past a bullet. 7.4.4 Supersonic ow along a wedge: shock detachment We have seen that for a ow along a wall with a kink there is a maximum kink angle for which an oblique shock can cause the ow to be properly deected. This maximum angle is the maximum deection angle as seen in Fig. 7.2. Since a cone is the same as the wall-with-a-kink but then mirror-symmetrized, this situation is precisely the same for a cone. So what happens if the cone


Figure 7.7. Flow past a wedge with an afterbody. The thin lines show the oblique shock and the expansion fan.

Attached shock Detached shock

Figure 7.8. Left: a wedge that is thin enough that the shock is attached to the tip of the wedge. Right: a blunt wedge that has shock detachment.

is too blunt? The answer is: the shock will detach from the cone. See Fig. 7.8. The precise shape of the shock detached region cannot be found with analytic means. A numerical simulation is required for this.

7.4.5 Supersonic exhaust pipe Suppose we have an exhaust from a jet engine into vacuum. With the use of Mach lines (characteristics) a qualitative picture of such a ow conguration can be made. This is shown in Fig. 7.9. It is best interpreted in the comoving frame picture where once the gas exits the exhaust, the boundaries in y -direction are suddenly free. It is like an explosion of a hot ball of gas: the edges expand in the form of expansion waves (i.e. simple waves in one of the characteristic families) that tell the interior that the gas is now free. Once the two expansion waves meet and overlap they form a non-simple wave.


simple wave region nonsimple wave region

Figure 7.9. Rocket engine exhaust into vacuum. The Mach lines originating from the corners of the exhaust span up simple waves (waves in only one characteristic family). But where the two families of Mach lines overlap the solution is no longer a simple wave.

Figure 7.10. Schematic view of a rocket engine which can produce transsonic ow, i.e. supersonic outow. From left to right: combustion chamger, throat (narrowest point) and exhaust. The narrowest point is the point where, provided there is sufcient pressure in the combustion chamber, the sonic point lies. But the solution depends critically on the ratio of outside pressure to the combustion chamber pressure.

7.5 Transsonic ows: Rocket engine (de Laval nozzle)

The above example of an expansion of an exhaust in vacuum is a limiting case of a more interesting ow pattern: that of a rocket engine (see Fig. 7.10), also called a de Laval nozzle. Let us write down the equations of conservation of density and energy. Let us call A(x) the area of the cross section of the ow as a function of coordinate x along the engine. We ignore the combustion chamber. We have, in stationary state: x (Au) = 0 x (Au[h + u2 /2]) = 0 (7.26) (7.27)

where h = e = e + P/ is the enthalpy. These equations are the 1-D versions of the hydrodynamic equations, but now with variable ow surface area. By combining these two equations we obtain: Au = f0 1 2 u = h0 h+ 2 (7.28) (7.29)

where f0 is constant and denotes the total ux of matter through the nozzle, and h 0 is also constant and called the stagnation enthalpy or reservoir enthalpy. The enthalpy condition can also be rewritten as: 2 2 Cs C0 1 2 u + = (7.30) 2 1 1 where Cs is the adiabatic sound speed and C0 ( 1)h0 is just another way of writing the 2 reservoir enthalpy. By multiplying this by ( 1)/Cs we obtain
2 1 2 T0 Cs =1+ M = 2 Cs T 2


2 where M u/Cs is the Mach number and again T0 is another way of writing C0 : C0 = RT where R = k/ is the gas constant with the mean molecular weight. Using the relation for a perfect gas that /( 1) T P = (7.32) = P0 0 T0

we obtain the following relations: P0 = P 0 = 1+ 1+ 1 2 M 2 1 2 M 2

/( 1)

1/( 1)


These relations should hold anywhere, so also at the narrowest point of the nozzle (the throat), where the sonic point (M = 1) will be. If we dene P and to be the pressure and density at this sonic point, then we can write: P = P0 = 0 2 +1 2 +1
/( 1)

1/( 1)

(7.36) P / . It is convenient to express the

The sound speed at this throat (sonic) point is C = velocity everywhere in terms of this C : M (x) = u(x) C


The relation between M (x) and M (x) can be obtained by writing down the following identity rst: 2 2 u2 Cs u2 C 1 +1 2 + = + = C (7.38) 2 1 2 1 2 1

and from this we obtain the following relations between the two Mach numbers:
2 M =

where we made use of the fact that at the sonic point, per denition, u = C . By dividing this by u2 we obtain: 2 2 1 + 1 C 1 Cs 1 + 2 = (7.39) 2 u 1 2 1 u2 +1 +1 2 +1 ( 1) M2
2 M2

(7.40) (7.41)

M2 =

Now let us go back to the conservation of mass uA =const: u C 0 C 0 1 A = = = = A u u 0 u 0 M (7.42)


Figure 7.11. The area - Mach number relation for a De Laval nozzle for = 7/5.

Now we use Eqs. (7.34,7.36 7.40) to nd all the three ratios in the above equation. After some algebra we then nally obtain the area-Mach number relation: A A

1 2 2 M +1


1 2 M 2

( +1)/( 1)


This area-Mach relation is shown in Fig. 7.11 for = 7/5. This shows that for every area bigger than the throat area there are two possible solutions for the ow: a subsonic one and a supersonic one. At the throat the ow is (by construction) sonic. It is now important to note that this was by construction so. We dened the A to be the sonic point and a-posteriori we see that this must be indeed at the throat. However, there also exist solutions which never become sonic (they are either supersonic throughout or subsonic throughout). For these solutions the above relations hold, but the variables will then just be hypothetical: they do (for purely super- or purely subsonic ow) not correspond to an existing sonic point. Now let us assume we have a nozzle with surface the area given by A(x) = 1 +x x (7.44)

The throat is located at x = 1. To nd the solutions for the Mach number M (x) we must solve Eq. (7.43) for M , given A(x)/A . If we take A to be the area of the throat At (which is At = 2), we obtain the transsonic solutions. If we take A < At then we obtain the fully supersonic or fully subsonic solutions. All these solutions are shown in Fig. 7.12. The most interesting solution is the transsonic solution, because that is what drives a rocket engine. Now the question is: which of these solutions is the true one? This depends on the pressure of the air outside of the nozzle. If the pressure is high, then a supersonic outow is not achieved. If it is low enough, then it can be achieved, possibly (probably) with a series of shocks behind the nozzle to adjust from the transsonic solution to the outside environment. Depending on the outside pressure, various shock congurations can happen, as shown schematically in Fig. 7.13. In Fig. 7.14 an image of an exhaust of a supersonic airplane is shown.


Figure 7.12. The solutions of for a De Laval nozzle for = 7/5, with nozzle area A(x) = x + 1/x. The thick line is the transsonic solution that creates a supersonic outow toward the right.


Mach Disc

Figure 7.13. Various possible shock patterns behind a nozzle, depending on ambient pressure (High to low from A to D).

Figure 7.14. Exhaust from a supersonic jet airplane (Image credit: NASA).