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Trauma Mechanics

Blast Simulation


  • The research in the Blast Simulation Laboratory mainly focuses on the simulation and measurement of blast waves. In the Trauma Mechanics Research Initiative, the blast simulation laboratory focuses on the engineering aspects of the shock wave simulator. This device is designed as the primary means of testing the mechanics of shock waves associated with improvised explosive devices (IEDs), for assessment of damage mechanisms and mitigation strategies, in a controlled laboratory environment.

  • A shock wave is a discontinuity of properties in a medium caused by a sudden disturbance acting faster than the speed of sound in that particular medium. Engineers in the Blast Simulation Laboratory have constructed the shock tube to replicate and measure the effects of such waves.

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    A sample recording from the Aramis high-speed camera system taken at the end of the shock tube.



Project Goals

  • Accurately simulate Improved Explosive Device (IED) shock waves
  • Create a repeatable 1-D shockwave for loading
  • Experimentally validate finite element analysis (FEA) models
  • Provide facility for testing TBI hypothesis with accurate loading conditions

Shock Tube

  1. Adjustable Volume Breech
  2. Membrane Holder
  3. Shock Wave Measurement System
Diagram of the shock tube

Diagram of the adjustable volume breech Variable breech is adjustable between 1” and 72”. A small volume breech yields short blast duration, and high volume one yields a longer blast duration. This breech design allows the shock tube to be tuned to various blast durations.

Diagram of the membrane holder
  • Membrane material: biaxially-oriented PET (Mylar)
  • Cylindrical clamps constrain membrane with dual o-ring seals
  • Various membrane thicknesses and quantities are use to obtain different blast amplitudes.
  • Future experiments may involve metallic membranes or a dual membrane system for higher over pressures

Diagram of shockwave measurement system The top three sensors at the end of the shock tube are used to measure blast magnitude, velocity, and acceleration. On the bottom, a fourth sensor verifies the blast magnitude at muzzle exit.

  • Pressure range 0-250 psi
  • Sensitivity ~ 20 mV/psi
  • Rise time ~ 1 µs (10-6)

Facility Features

Shock tubes

The facility is currently equipped with three shock tubes: 4" round, 9" square, and 28" square for testing a variety of specimens.

Data Acquisition System

Integrated in the shock tube is an array of 16 sensors that channel data into a single system. The system easily synchronizes data with the National Instruments PXI chassis and can be analyzed with a linked Dell computer.

Aramis High-Speed Video

Two Aramis Cameras cameras placed at the window of the test section record simulations at as much as 500,000 frames per second.

Photo of Aramis Cameras