Boating through choppy waters can soon become a less physically exhausting experience as researchers are developing the science behind improved watercraft design.
In a study published in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics, the researchers demonstrated the unique differences in how water interacts with rigid and elastic bodies.
"Rigid and elastic materials interact with the water surface quite differently," said Randy Hurd, a PhD candidate at Utah State University in the US and lead author of the study.
"When an elastic body impacts the surface, the material deforms and oscillates significantly which changes the water-impact physics compared to a rigid body," Hurd said.
Hurd's team used high-speed cameras to record elastomeric spheres dropping into a tank of water.
At 2,000 frames per second, the footage revealed the unique splash curtains and air-filled cavities that form after impact.
The group used the images to track the position and deformation of the elastic spheres to understand how energy transfers from the water to the material.
By analysing the results, the team was able to predict the water interaction behaviour based on the type of soft material and its speed.
The study could be an important step towards the design of an inflatable speedboat that absorbs wave energy and provides a smoother ride for passengers.
"Being able to predict water interaction from a materials perspective is an important first step in understanding which material types would be best for developing an inflatable watercraft capable of providing a smoother ride over a choppy surface," Hurd said.
The findings are particularly useful to the US Navy and other agencies that deploy watercraft in rough seas.
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