Scientists are developing an inflatable speedboat that absorbs the energy of waves to provide a smooth ride when travelling through choppy waters. Researchers at Utah State University (USU) in the US have for the first time demonstrated the unique differences in water impact behaviour of rigid and elastic bodies.
“Rigid and elastic materials interact with the water surface quite differently,” said Randy Hurd, a PhD candidate at USU and lead author of the study published in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics. “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.
Researchers 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, researchers said that they can accurately predict the water interaction behaviour based on the type of soft material and its speed. “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 water craft capable of providing a smoother ride over a choppy surface,” said Hurd.