Mithun Bhowmick, Miami University – Shockwaves

Shockwaves cause big changes, but look closer.

Mithun Bhowmick, assistant professor in the department of mathematical and physical sciences at Miami University, takes a look at a tabletop apparatus that can influence new technologies.

Dr. Bhowmick’s research is focused on shock compression of condensed matter. Looking at materials and events closely has never been more fascinating, but we can do more with microscopes nowadays. If we look around, we will see that traditional fields of research are collaborating and evolving into new possibilities. One example is condensed matter and high pressure physics coming together to create techniques that can provide a snapshot of any event, be it microscopic or macroscopic, with high resolution and unprecedented speed. The tabletop shock wave apparatus that was built by Dr. Bhowmick and his coworkers have exciting potentials to offer, including but not limited to applications in materials science and engineering, geochemistry, biochemistry and cosmology.

Shockwaves

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Have you ever been fascinated by the fast-moving objects? If your answer is yes, you will be intrigued by shock compression experiments, where a shockwave is used to create extreme conditions in a material.

When a shockwave moves through a material, it instantly delivers enormous pressure-often higher than a million atmosphere, temperature of a few thousand Fahrenheit, and lots of energy to it, at the same time compresses it to very high density. The materials respond in many ways to shock compression. Materials often change their physical or chemical properties under shock.

One of the most recent developments in shock compression is a novel apparatus we built in Dr. Dana Dlott’s group at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where a tiny metal foil, moving at a few km/s hits a sample to send a shockwave through it. When the shock propagates, numerous optical probes and high-speed cameras record signature of changes from the sample.

Shock compression is unique because it can investigate microscopic as well as cosmological scales. We can mimic detonation events, formation of planets, behavior of biomaterials under shock or formation of minerals and associated geochemistry at the core of earth- all in real time on a tabletop apparatus.

We can also apply this technique to synthesize new materials, invent clinical procedures and chemical pathways for safer, greener and more profitable technologies.

In short, shock compression on a tabletop is a rapidly growing area of interdisciplinary research finding its applications in a multitude of problems.

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