Journal article Open Access

Plasma formation and temperature measurement during single-bubble cavitation

Flannigan, David J.; Suslick, Kenneth S.

Single-bubble sonoluminescence (SBSL) results from the extreme temperatures and pressures achieved during bubble compression; calculations have predicted the existence of a hot, optically opaque plasma core with consequent bremsstrahlung radiation. Recent controversial reports claim the observation of neutrons from deuterium–deuterium fusion during acoustic cavitation. However, there has been previously no strong experimental evidence for the existence of a plasma during single- or multi-bubble sonoluminescence. SBSL typically produces featureless emission spectra that reveal little about the intra-cavity physical conditions or chemical processes. Here we report observations of atomic (Ar) emission and extensive molecular (SO) and ionic (O2 cation) progressions in SBSL spectra from concentrated aqueous H2SO4 solutions. Both the Ar and SO emission permit spectroscopic temperature determinations, as accomplished for multi-bubble sonoluminescence with other emitters. The emissive excited states observed from both Ar+ and O2 cation are inconsistent with any thermal process. The Ar excited states involved are extremely high in energy (>13 eV) and cannot be thermally populated at the measured Ar emission temperatures (4,000–15,000 K); the ionization energy of O2 is more than twice its bond dissociation energy, so O2 likewise cannot be thermally produced. We therefore conclude that these emitting species must originate from collisions with high-energy electrons, ions or particles from a hot plasma core.

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