I’ve never been one to get seasick. But I’ve been around people who can’t even take a short trip on calm water without keeling over the side of the boat.
If you fall into the latter category, there’s hope for you yet (beyond popping several Dramamine tablets before your excursion).
In fact, the solution actually has nothing to do with boat passengers…
Smooth Sailing Technology
Scientists at the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of California in Berkeley are working out a technique that would keep boats from being rocked by any disturbances from the sea, no matter how small.
And believe it or not, their plan involves using a type of invisibility technology. Not invisibility in the classical sense, though (i.e. – obscuring an object from the naked eye).
Like scientists at the University of Texas at Dallas who’ve achieved a full invisibility effect by replicating the optical illusion associated with a mirage by transferring heat with carbon nanotubes. Or BAE Systems (BAESY.PK) and its heat-altering vehicle plating that can hide tanks from thermal surveillance cameras. And Cornell’s discovery that alters the light-patterns around us to erase entire events.
Instead, these researchers are using a new invisibility technology that works with frequency. And they’re using it to make the waves seem invisible to the boat.
Taking “Ripple Effect” to a New Level
The idea starts with the fact that waves aren’t just found on the water’s surface.
You see, water in the ocean separates into two distinct layers, with warmer water on the top and cooler water underneath. And waves can form between these two layers, too.
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Now, Mohammad-Reza Alam, a “fluid mechanician” at the University of California, says that they can actually make surface waves change into these subsurface waves as they get closer to a boat.
This allows the boat – or any floating object – to bypass the wave entirely. And after the boat passes overhead, the waves then revert back to their original form on the water’s surface.
Essentially, the surface waves become invisible to the boat passing overhead.
The process for achieving this goal is a bit complex, of course.
In short, it involves leveraging the difference in frequency and speed between the surface and subsurface waves. Since the waves on the water’s surface tend to move at faster speeds than the waves below, the scientists have found a way to transfer this energy. Which, in turn, “sinks” the wave below the surface.
This is done by placing specially designed ripples on the ocean floor. And as Science Magazine says,“The energy transfer takes place because both types of waves ‘feel’ the bottom… And a second, identical patch of ripples on the other side” of the boat, shifts the wave back into a surface wave.
Granted, the scientists working on the project have only demonstrated this effect with a computer simulation. And I’d love to know how they plan on remodeling the ocean floor with ripples to make this idea a reality.
Besides, even if this proves successful in the real world, I’m not entirely convinced that keeping boats from rocking is the best application for the technology anyway.
Ultimately, I think the best use for this technology would be to keep waters calm near coastlines. Not only would it be easier to alter the sea floor closer to shore, but it would also help protect people and buildings from tsunamis.
Marc Perlin, of the University of Michigan, agrees:
“This thing would work, I think, to protect offshore structure[s]… I think it has a lot of potential.”