Hydrodynamic cavitation describes the process of vaporization, bubble generation and bubble implosion which occurs in a flowing liquid as a result of a decrease and subsequent increase in local pressure. Cavitation will only occur if the local pressure declines to some point below the saturated vapor pressure of the liquid and subsequent recovery above the vapor pressure. If the recovery pressure is not above the vapor pressure then flashing is said to have occurred. In pipe systems, cavitation typically occurs either as the result of an increase in the kinetic energy (through an area constriction) or an increase in the pipe elevation.
Hydrodynamic cavitation can be produced by passing a liquid through a constricted channel at a specific flow velocity or by mechanical rotation of an object through a liquid. In the case of the constricted channel and based on the specific (or unique) geometry of the system, the combination of pressure and kinetic energy can create the hydrodynamic cavitation cavern downstream of the local constriction generating high energy cavitation bubbles.
The process of bubble generation, and the subsequent growth and collapse of the cavitation bubbles, results in very high energy densities and in very high local temperatures and local pressures at the surface of the bubbles for a very short time. The overall liquid medium environment, therefore, remains at ambient conditions. When uncontrolled, cavitation is damaging; by controlling the flow of the cavitation, however, the power can be harnessed and non-destructive. Controlled cavitation can be used to enhance chemical reactions or propagate certain unexpected reactions because free radicals are generated in the process due to disassociation of vapors trapped in the cavitating bubbles.
Orifices and venturi are reported to be widely used for generating cavitation. A venturi has an inherent advantage over an orifice because of its smooth converging and diverging sections, such that it can generate a higher flow velocity at the throat for a given pressure drop across it. On the other hand, an orifice has an advantage that it can accommodate a greater number of holes (larger perimeter of holes) in a given cross sectional area of the pipe.
The cavitation phenomenon can be controlled to enhance the performance of high-speed marine vessels and projectiles, as well as in material processing technologies, in medicine, etc. Controlling the cavitating flows in liquids can be achieved only by advancing the mathematical foundation of the cavitation processes. These processes are manifested in different ways, the most common ones and promising for control being bubble cavitation and supercavitation. The first exact classical solution should perhaps be credited to the well- known solution by H. Helmholtz in 1868. The earliest distinguished studies of academic type on the theory of a cavitating flow with free boundaries and supercavitation were published in the book Jets, wakes and cavities followed by Theory of jets of ideal fluid. Widely used in these books was the well-developed theory of conformal mappings of functions of a complex variable, allowing one to derive a large number of exact solutions of plane problems. Another venue combining the existing exact solutions with approximated and heuristic models was explored in the work Hydrodynamics of Flows with Free Boundaries that refined the applied calculation techniques based on the principle of cavity expansion independence, theory of pulsations and stability of elongated axisymmetric cavities, etc. and in Dimensionality and similarity methods in the problems of the hydromechanics of vessels.
A natural continuation of these studies was recently presented in The Hydrodynamics of Cavitating Flows – an encyclopedic work encompassing all the best advances in this domain for the last three decades, and blending the classical methods of mathematical research with the modern capabilities of computer technologies. These include elaboration of nonlinear numerical methods of solving 3D cavitation problems, refinement of the known plane linear theories, development of asymptotic theories of axisymmetric and nearly axisymmetric flows, etc. As compared to the classical approaches, the new trend is characterized by expansion of the theory into the 3D flows. It also reflects a certain correlation with current works of an applied character on the hydrodynamics of supercavitating bodies.
Hydrodynamic cavitation can also improve some industrial processes. For instance, cavitated corn slurry shows higher yields in ethanol production compared to uncavitated corn slurry in dry milling facilities.
This is also used in the mineralization of bio-refractory compounds which otherwise would need extremely high temperature and pressure conditions since free radicals are generated in the process due to the dissociation of vapors trapped in the cavitating bubbles, which results in either the intensification of the chemical reaction or may even result in the propagation of certain reactions not possible under otherwise ambient conditions.