Scientists Create a Surfer's Dream: A 'Frozen' Wave in a New Experiment (Video)

First Posted: Jul 22, 2013 11:59 AM EDT

It's every surfer's dream: a wave that never breaks and essentially remains "frozen" in time. Now, researchers have created this wave in a laboratory. The new discovery could lead to improvements in boat and seaport designs as well as enable the analysis of how carbon dioxide exchange between the ocean and the atmosphere occurs.

Waves are created when energy, like what is created from wind or a rock falling into a pond, is transmitted through a medium. In this case, the medium is water. The water itself doesn't move. Instead, the energy moves through the water, away from the disturbance. Yet this new wave that the researchers created works a bit differently.

"In our case, what occurs is actually the opposite: the water moves very rapidly (at several meters per second), but the wave moves at a speed of zero," said Javier Rodriguez, one of the researchers, in a news release. "That is, it remains still, 'frozen' in time for any observer who sees it from outside the water."

In order to create a wave that seemed to stand in one place, the researchers constructed a small canal in a tank that was approximately the length of a van. The entire creation consisted of a semi-submerged panel with a square corner that partially obstructed the flow of water in the tank. This created a wave that seemed to stand completely still.

"The most remarkable thing is to observe a pipeline wave that remains still, to the point that we can put our fingers under the crest for as long as we want and not get wet, because this wave never breaks," said Rodriguez.

The researchers aren't only creating this wave physically, though. They're also creating in theoretically. They're currently working with computer simulation techniques and asymptotic analysis in order to make an approximate description of this wave's formation. This will allow them to better understand the wave's behavior which, in turn, could allow for a better understanding of ocean waves.

The static wave is important for future research. By creating a wave that would never be static in nature, scientists can study it in detail in the laboratory. This could allow for a better understanding of how these waves impact marine structures and help researchers anticipate the damage they might cause.

The findings are published in the journal Experiments in Fluids.

Want to see the wave for yourself? Check out the video below, courtesy of YouTube.

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