Research

Heating from Cavitation

An oblong cavitation bubble sits next to a surface, with a jet protruding through its middle

When cavitation bubbles collapse, they can produce temperatures well over 2,000 Kelvin. Since cavitation near a surface can be so destructive, researchers have long wondered whether the high temperatures inside the bubble can be transmitted to nearby surfaces. A new set of numerical simulations provides some insight into that process. The researchers found that collapsing cavitation bubbles raised nearby wall temperatures in two ways: bubbles that were further away sent shock waves that heated the material, and nearby bubbles could contact the surface itself as they collapsed.

Heat transfer requires time, however; this is part of why quickly dunking your hand in liquid nitrogen and pulling it out likely won’t damage you. (Still, we don’t recommend it.) The cavitation bubbles could only transmit these high temperatures for less than 1 microsecond, which means that most materials won’t actually heat up to their melting temperature. The researchers did conclude, however, that softer materials exposed to frequent bubble collapses could show localized melting under the barrage. (Image credit: L. Krum; research credit: S. Beig et al.)

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