Shock Waves

pp 1–27 | Cite as

Use of acceleration and optical waypoint measurements to estimate piston trajectory in an impulse facility

  • D. E. Gildfind
  • T. Hines
  • P. A. Jacobs
  • S. Stennett
  • I. Dimitrijevic
Original Article


This paper describes a prototype device to estimate the trajectory of the piston in a free-piston driver. The device, which screws to the front face of the piston, has an internal data acquisition system which triggers upon piston launch and records the acceleration history across the complete piston stroke. A key feature is the incorporation of an optical waypoint detector. This comprises a laser which is directed onto the compression tube wall, and a photodiode which measures the reflected intensity. A series of evenly spaced high-contrast lines are marked on the tube surface, which appear as a pattern of intensity changes in the photodiode signal and define a set of exact position–time coordinates along the trajectory. Optical pattern recognition has previously been shown to be effective to identify piston traversal past a fixed detector; in this application, the order is reversed so that the detector is on the piston, and the pattern is at the fixed location. Waypoint detection permits computation of a precise in situ calibration of the accelerometer and correction of the acceleration integration along the piston stroke. The key benefits of this concept are that it provides a complete, fully time-resolved, accurate estimate of piston position, is self-contained and portable, and can be readily utilised on any free-piston driver without significant modification to the facility.


Free-piston driver Piston dynamics Trajectory measurement Accelerometer Optical waypoint detection 



The authors wish to thank UQ’s Faculty of Engineering, Architecture, and Information Technology (EAIT) for support and funding through its New Staff Research Start-up Funding scheme; UQ’s EAIT Faculty Workshop, especially Frans de Beurs and Mark James, for technical support; Paul Meehan for suggesting calibration by drop testing; the Australian Research Council for support and funding; and the Queensland Smart State Research Facilities Fund 2005 for support and funding.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of QueenslandSt. LuciaAustralia
  2. 2.CB AerospaceHemmantAustralia
  3. 3.UNSW Canberra at ADFACanberraAustralia

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