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School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics
Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment
The application of ultrasound and acoustic cavitation in liquid exfoliation of bulk layered materials is a widely used method. However, despite extensive research, the fundamental mechanisms remain far from being fully understood. A number of theories have been proposed to interpret the interactions between cavitation and bulk layered materials and hence to explain the mechanisms of ultrasound assisted exfoliation. Unfortunately, most of the research reported to date is ambiguous or inconclusive due to lack of direct real-time experimental evidence. In this paper, we report systematic work characterising cavitation emissions and observing the exfoliation of graphite in situ, in deionised water under the dynamic interaction with laser and ultrasound induced cavitation bubbles. Using ultra-high-speed optical imaging, we were able to determine the dynamic sequence of graphite exfoliation events on a time scale never reported before. Real-time observations also revealed that shock waves with a pressure magnitude up to 5 MPa and liquid-jets in the range of 80 ms−1, from transient cavitation bubble implosions, were essential for the initiation and propagation of the exfoliation process. On the other hand, bubble oscillations associated with stable cavitation were beneficial for promoting a gentler delamination of graphite layers.
Scaling up ultrasonic cavitation melt treatment (UST) requires effective flow management with minimised energy requirements. To this end, container dimensions leading to the resonance play a crucial role in amplifying pressure amplitude for cavitation. To quantify the importance of resonance length during the treatment of liquid aluminium, we used calibrated high-temperature cavitometers (in the range of 8–400 kHz), to measure and record the acoustic pressure profiles inside the cavitation-induced environment of liquid Al and deionized water (used as an analogue to Al) excited at 19.5 kHz. To achieve a comprehensive map of the acoustic pressure field, measurements were conducted at three different cavitometer positions relative to the vibrating sonotrode probe and for a number of resonant and non-resonant container lengths based on the speed of sound in the treated medium. The results showed that the resonance length affected the pressure magnitude in liquid Al in all cavitometer positions, while water showed no sensitivity to resonance length. An important practical application of UST in aluminium processing concerns grain refinement. For this reason, grain size analysis of UST-treated Al-Cu-Zr-Ti alloy was used as an indicator of the melt treatment efficiency. The result showed that the treatment in a resonance tank of (the wavelength of sound in Al) gave the best structure refinement as compared to other tested lengths. The data given here contribute to the optimisation of the ultrasonic process in continuous casting, by providing an optimum value for the critical compartment (e.g. in a launder of direct-chill casting) dimension.
The application of cavitation-induced shock waves generated at low driving frequencies, known as power ultrasound, is essential for a wide range of fields, such as sonochemistry, lithotripsy, nanomaterials, emulsions and casting, to name but a few. In this paper, we present measurements of the shock wave pressures emitted by cavitating bubbles in water, under ultrasonic excitation produced by an immersed probe oscillating at 24 kHz. A broad-spectrum fibre-optic hydrophone calibrated in the range of 1–30 MHz was used for this purpose. Spectral analysis of the data reveals a consistent resonance peak at a very narrow range of frequencies (3.27–3.43 MHz). Results were confirmed using real-time analysis of high-speed recordings. By eliminating other possible sources, we propose that this new peak might be associated with shock wave emissions from collapsing bubbles. Spatial maps obtained by collating individual shock wave pressures highlight the effect of pressure shielding with increasing input power, attributed to a cloud of bubbles surrounding the probe. This work contributes towards the elucidation of the key properties of cavitation-driven shock waves and the underlying mechanisms, essential in controlling the effectiveness of the external processing conditions on various physical, chemical and biological systems.
One of the main applications of ultrasonic melt treatment is the grain refinement of aluminium alloys. Among several suggested mechanisms, the fragmentation of primary intermetallics by acoustic cavitation is regarded as very efficient. However, the physical process causing this fragmentation has received little attention and is not yet well understood. In this study, we evaluate the mechanical properties of primary Al3Zr intermetallics by nano-indentation experiments and correlate those with in-situ high-speed imaging (of up to 1 Mfps) of their fragmentation process by laser-induced cavitation (single bubble) and by acoustic cavitation (cloud of bubbles) in water. Intermetallic crystals were chemically extracted from an Al-3 wt% Zr alloy matrix. Mechanical properties such as hardness, elastic modulus and fracture toughness of the extracted intermetallics were determined using a geometrically fixed Berkovich nano-diamond and cube corner indenter, under ambient temperature conditions. The studied crystals were then exposed to the two cavitation conditions mentioned. Results demonstrated for the first time that the governing fragmentation mechanism of the studied intermetallics was due to the emitted shock waves from the collapsing bubbles. The fragmentation caused by a single bubble collapse was found to be almost instantaneous. On the other hand, sono-fragmentation studies revealed that the intermetallic crystal initially underwent low cycle fatigue loading, followed by catastrophic brittle failure due to propagating shock waves. The observed fragmentation mechanism was supported by fracture mechanics and pressure measurements using a calibrated fibre optic hydrophone. Results showed that the acoustic pressures produced from shock wave emissions in the case of a single bubble collapse, and responsible for instantaneous fragmentation of the intermetallics, were in the range of 20–40 MPa. Whereas, the shock pressure generated from the acoustic cavitation cloud collapses surged up to 1.6 MPa inducing fatigue stresses within the crystal leading to eventual fragmentation.