Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Paul I. King, PhD.


This research includes an investigation of the mechanisms of diffraction and reinitiation that enable a detonation diffuser. It describes a set of geometric parameters necessary to design a diffuser for a given detonable mixture and initial channel height. Predetonators with channel height less than the critical height are ineffective because detonations in small channels decouple into separate shock and combustion fronts when the channel height increases. A detonation diffuser allows the channel height to increase by utilizing the decoupled shock wave to reinitiate detonation. In the diffuser, a detonation initially decouples into separate shock and combustion fronts, and then the decoupled shock front reflects from an oblique surface initiating a secondary detonation that survives the expansion. This research investigated the three regions of a detonation diffuser: the initial diffraction, the reflecting surface, and the second diffraction corner. Schlieren video of two-dimensional diffracting detonations recorded the position of the detonation, decoupled shock front and flame front. Observations of the decoupled shocks reflecting from surfaces showed that a 45° reflecting surface must be placed less than 80 mm downstream of the initial diffraction corner to initiate a secondary detonation in more than 91% of repeated trials. Observations of the interaction of diffracting detonations with multiple obstacles revealed that the best performance (smallest separation, and highest Mach number) occurred when the decoupled shock reflected from four separate obstacles at approximately the same time.

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