Acoustically enhanced bubble growth at low frequencies and its implications for human diver and marine mammal safety

J Acoust Soc Am. 1996 May;99(5):2898-907. doi: 10.1121/1.414859.


Computations are made of the conditions necessary to obtain bubble growth by rectified diffusion under a variety of conditions associated with low-frequency sonar propagation in the ocean. The complex issue of microbubble nuclei stabilization is treated by assuming either a sufficient level of supersaturation to stabilize the initial bubble size, or by examining a microbubble nucleus with zero surface tension. The bubble growth rates and thresholds are obtained for a ranged of sound-pressure levels (re: 1 microPa) from 150-220 dB, for initial bubble radii from 1-10 microns, and for levels of the dissolved gas concentration from 100% to 223% of saturation. It was determined that for the range of conditions examined, it was necessary to utilize three different formulations of the equations for bubble growth. The results of these calculations (and assumptions concerning nuclei stabilization) indicate that for SPL's in excess of 210 dB, significant bubble growth can be expected to occur, and divers and marine mammals exposed to these conditions could be at risk. For SPL's below about 190 dB, however, except under relatively extreme conditions of supersaturation, significant bubble growth is unexpected.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustics*
  • Decompression Sickness
  • Diving*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Oceans and Seas
  • Safety*