An investigation of the plasma jet as an underwater acoustic source




Smith, Robert David

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The plasma jet, a commonly used ignition device, has been investigated as a source of acoustic energy suitable for sub-bottom profiling. Named the plasma gun, the device discharges electrical energy in a cylindrical arc ignited in a gaseous environment surrounded by water. When the arc energy evaporates water, it produces a rapidly expanding vapor bubble that creates the acoustic pressure wave. Acoustic properties of the device are similar to small explosives, and to electric sparkers. Multiple bubble oscillations, a problem of explosive-type sources, are generally less troublesome for the plasma gun than with the sparker sources. Some degree of frequency control of the acoustic pulse is possible if proper values are selected for the electrical circuit components and for the total stored electrical energy. Peak acoustic pressures are controlled both by the total electric energy and by the rate it is delivered to the arc. These quantities are determined by capacitance, inductance, and charging voltage. Frequency components of the primary pressure pulse depend on the arc discharge frequency and on the immersion depth of the device. The bubble period depends primarily on the amount of energy discharged into the water; this in turn is proportional to the total stored electrical energy. The plasma gun has been compared to small air guns, pingers, sparkers, and boomers. Sub-bottom profiles obtained show penetration less than the 1 in3 air gun but with more resolution. Stored energy in the plasma gun, however, was nearly five times less. Penetration was equal and resolution better than electric sparkers of the same energy. Penetration was better and resolution poorer than the pinger, and resolution poorer and penetration slightly better than the boomer source. Except for the sparkers, which used the same power supply, the plasma gun has a decided advantage in equipment size and ease of deployment.



Underwater acoustics, Instruments, Plasma jets, Acoustic properties