The propagation of weak shock waves (Ms = 1.007, 1.03 and 1.1) through a statistically uniform random medium has been investigated experimentally in a shock tube. The wave-from geometry, rise time and amplitude of initially plane shocks which have propagated through a random mixture of helium and refrigerant 12 are measured. The effect of shock propagation on the properties of the random medium is visualized with schlieren and shadow photography. The pressure histories of the distorted shock waves reflecting from a normal end wall are observed to be both peaked and rounded. In the rounded case the perturbed shock is found to be made up of a succession of weak, slightly curved fronts with a total effective rise time orders of magnitude greater than the classical Taylor thickness. The radius of curvature of the weakest shocks after propagating through the random medium is inferred from observations at two downstream stations to be about 7 times the integral scale of the gas inhomogeneities. It is concluded that the observed distortions of the wave fronts can best be explained in terms of random focusing and defocusing of the front by the inhomogeneities in the medium. A ray-tracing calculation has been used to interpret the experimental observations. It is found that geometrical considerations are sufficient to account for many of the effects observed on the shocks.
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