Initiation of liquid explosives by cavitation

  • V. E. Gordeev
  • A. I. Serbinov
  • Ya. K. Troshin


It is known that in some circumstances liquid explosives can be initiated with unexpected ease, and in other circumstances only with great diffculty.

Thus, Winning [1] has shown that nitroglycerine (NG) free of gaseous inclusions and poured into a vessel so as to leave no wall surfaces free of liquid is not exploded even by the action of a fairly strong shock wave from a detonator immersed in the NG.

On the other hand, in handling liquid explosives there have been quite a few cases in which relatively weak vibrations or impacts have led to unexpected explosions, which have sometimes had serious consequences. For example, a British report [2] describes an unfortunate accident that resulted from dropping a polyethylene bottle containing NG. Upon hitting the ground the NG exploded.

The initiation of explosion by “hot spots” resulting from the adiabatic compression of gaseous inclusions even before the arrival of the shock wave has been reliably demonstrated in numerous experiments [1, 3]. However, some cases of initiation of liquid explosives simply cannot be attributed to the heating of such gaseous inclusions, since in these cases the adiabatic compression temperatures of the gas are so small that it is not possible to talk of a “hot spot. “Such puzzling cases include, for example, the above-mentioned explosion of NG in a polyethylene bottle. In other experiments [4] the role of gaseous inclusions has been completely eliminated by first subjecting the liquid explosive to a constant high pressure. This so reduced the degree of compression of the gaseous inclusions by a weak shock that strong heating of the gas in the bubbles, if any were present in the liquid explosives, was completely excluded. Nonetheless, there was no reduction in the sensitivity of the explosive to weak shocks.

In attempting to explain such puzzling cases it is usually pointed out that explosion can be initiated by cavitation [1, 5], which may develop in a liquid even as a result of a weak impact or vibration. So far, however, no one has offered any direct experimental evidence of the possibility of cavitational initiation of explosion in liquid explosives. The object of our research was to fill that gap.


Shock Wave Explosive Cavitation Nitroglycerine Polyethylene Bottle 
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Copyright information

© The Faraday Press, Inc. 1971

Authors and Affiliations

  • V. E. Gordeev
    • 1
  • A. I. Serbinov
    • 1
  • Ya. K. Troshin
    • 1
  1. 1.Moscow

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