Sonoluminescence, the transduction of sound into light, is a phenomenon that pushes fluid mechanics beyond its limit. An initial state with long wavelength and low Mach number, such as is realized for a gas bubble driven by an audible sound field, spontaneously focuses the energy density so as to generate supersonic motion and a different phase of matter, from which are then emitted picosecond flashes of broad-band UV light. Although the most rational picture of sonoluminescence involves the creation of a “cold” dense plasma by an imploding shock wave, neither the imploding shock nor the plasma has been directly observed. Attempts to attack sonoluminescence from the perspective of continuum mechanics have led to interesting issues related to bubble shape oscillations, shock shape instabilities, and shock propagation through nonideal media, and chemical hydrodynamics. The limits of energy focusing that can be achieved from collapsing bubbles in the far-off equilibrium motion of fluids have yet to be determined either experimentally or theoretically.

[Erratum, Closure]

An erratum has been published for this article:
: How Bubbles Turn Sound into Light

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  • Article Type: Review Article
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