top of page

Speed of sound: the impassable Mach

The speed of sound, a mysterious phenomenon transcending human perception, has intrigued for centuries. This article explores its definition, its fascinating past, and its crucial role in aviation, notably in the conquest of the famous " wall of sound".

F-18 sound barrier, speed of sound, clothing, alcb

Definition and Context of the Speed of Sound

The speed of sound, manifestation of the speed of vibrations, transcends the limits of the air and other materials. Independent of frequency and amplitude in fluids, it links its performance to isentropic compressibility and density. The ideal gas model, applicable to gases near atmospheric pressure, establishes the crucial link between the speed of sound and temperature. For illustration purposes, at 15°C, it reaches approximately 340 m/s in the air, rises to 1,500 m/s in water, and peaks at 5960 m/s in iron . This exploration unveils the complex dynamics of sound velocity in different environments, revealing its essential role in the aeronautical experience.

Aviation and the Sound Wall Challenge

In the twists and turns of the Second World War, aviators were approaching a mysterious limit, later named "sound barrier< /strong>". The instability and the tightening of orders, observed at this border, made it formidable.

1940s British engineer W. F. Hiltonpopularized this name, supported by the mathematical models of the time, which suggested a singularity at these speeds.

In April 1945, Hans Guido Mutke, a German pilot, claimed to have transgressed this wall aboard his Messerschmitt Me 262 . His feat, a violent dive at 12,000 meters, causing tremors and blocking the dial at 1,100 km/h, made history.

Unfortunately, the quest for air superiority cost the life of Geoffrey de Havilland Jr., test pilot of the De Havilland DH 108 Swallow, during an accident on September 27, 1946. This tragic event reinforced the idea of the sound barrier as an insurmountable frontier.

However, on October 14, 1947, Chuck Yeager transcended this perception aboard the Bell X-1, etching his name into the annals of aviation by definitely breaking the sound barrier.

Bell-X1 speed of sound, clothes, alcb

Mach and Supersonic Speed Measurement

Supersonic aviation introduced the "Mach", measuring the speed of an object relative to that of sound.Mach 1 is equivalent to the speed of sound. Supersonic aircraft such as the Concorde and the X-59 QueSST are pushing the boundaries of air travel, enabling transatlantic crossings at extraordinary speeds.

concorde, supersonic, t-shirt, sweater, alcb, cloth

The Mach coefficient, noted Ma, reveals the dimensionless link between the velocity of an object in a fluid and the celerity of sound in the same medium. This correlation oscillates due to variations in gas composition and temperature style="color: rgb(55, 65, 81);">, thus giving the Mach coefficient a sensitivity to local conditions. Assigning this term to Jakob Ackeret is a tribute to the eminence of Austrian physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach. This in-depth exploration of the Mach coefficient exposes its pivotal role in aeronautics, illustrating its importance in understanding fluid dynamics at advanced levels.

Conclusion: The Speed of Sound, an Inexhaustible Source of Inspiration

Beyond a simple physical measurement, the speed of sound symbolizes human determination to push the boundaries of exploration and technology . Aviation, the scene of major advances, with the conquest of the sound barrier and the advent of supersonic aircraft, testifies to the infinite capacity of humanity to defy the laws of physics. The speed of sound remains an inexhaustible source of inspiration.

1 view0 comments


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page