Physics projects for Y3 and Y4 students

Project description

Theory of shock waves

(supervisor: Youra Taroyan)

Nature of project: theory, software

Available to students on full-time physics degree schemes or joint students.

Project description and methodology

Shock waves can form due to steepening of linear small amplitude waves. They are commonly produced in stars and planets. For example, random convective motions generate sound waves in the interior of the Sun. The amplitudes of these waves increase as they propagate up into the atmosphere. Also, the occurrence of a coronal mass ejection containing a huge erupting solar prominence is likely to generate a shock wave. The aim of the project is to investigate the formation and propagation of the shock waves.

A successful project will develop beyond the above in one/some of the following directions:
The steepening of waves with different initial amplitudes and wavelengths will be estimated using the Burgers equation. The problem will be tackled both analytically and numerically. A computer program will be provided.

When considering where to take your project, please bear in mind the time available. It is preferable to do fewer things well than to try many and not get conclusive results on any of them. However, sometimes it is useful to have a couple of strands of investigation in parallel to work on in case delays occur.

Additional scope or challenge if taken as a Year-4 project: The competition between the nonlinear steepening and the dissipative effects due to the added viscous term will be investigated.

Please speak to Youra Taroyan if you consider doing this project.

Initial literature for students:

  1. Priest, E. Solar Magnetohydrodynamics, Cambridge University Press, 2014
  2. Mullan, D. J. Physics of the Sun, CRC Press 2009
  3. Lamb, H., Hydrodynamics, Scholar's choice 2015

Novelty, degree of difficulty and amount of assistance required

Basic understanding of programming is desirable although no prior experience in computer programming is necessary. Instructions and assistance will be provided.

Project milestones and deliverables (including timescale)

milestoneto be completed by
Review of gravitational effects on sound wavesend of October
Setting up and running the codeChristmas
Exploring the effects of gravity on sound waves end of February
Interpretation of the results and discussionEaster