In physics, a shock wave (also spelled shockwave), or shock, is a type of propagating disturbance that moves faster than the local speed of sound in the medium. Like an ordinary wave, a shock wave carries energy and can propagate through a medium but is characterized by an abrupt, nearly discontinuous, change in pressure, temperature, and density of the medium.
For the purpose of comparison, in supersonic flows, additional increased expansion may be achieved through an expansion fan, also known as a Prandtl–Meyer expansion fan. The accompanying expansion wave may approach and eventually collide and recombine with the shock wave, creating a process of destructive interference. The sonic boom associated with the passage of a supersonic aircraft is a type of sound wave produced by constructive interference.
Unlike solitons (another kind of nonlinear wave), the energy and speed of a shock wave alone dissipates relatively quickly with distance. When a shock wave passes through matter, energy is preserved but entropy increases. This change in the matter's properties manifests itself as a decrease in the energy which can be extracted as work, and as a drag force on supersonic objects; shock waves are strongly irreversible processes.
Advanced techniques are needed to capture shock waves and to detect shock waves in both numerical computations and experimental observations.
Computational fluid dynamics is commonly used to obtain the flow field with shock waves. Though shock waves are sharp discontinuities, in numerical solutions of fluid flow with discontinuities (shock wave, contact discontinuity or slip line), the shock wave can be smoothed out by low-order numerical method (due to numerical dissipation) or there are spurious oscillations near shock surface by high-order numerical method (due to Gibbs phenomena).
There exist some other discontinuities in fluid flow than the shock wave. The slip surface (3D) or slip line (2D) is a plane across which the tangent
In memristors, under externally-applied electric field, shock waves can be launched across the transition-metal oxides, creating fast and non-volatile resistivity changes.