Captured by Waves

Poster by A Sherif and L Ristroph

Acoustic levitation and optical tweezers both use waves — of sound and light, respectively — to trap and control particles. Water waves also have the power to move and capture objects, as shown in this award-winning poster from the 2019 Gallery of Fluid Motion. The central image shows a submerged disk, its position controlled by the arc-shaped wavemaker at work on the water’s surface. The complicated pattern of reflection and refraction of the waves we see on the surface draws the disk to a focal point and holds it there.

On the bottom right, a composite image shows the same effect in action on a submerged triangular disk driven by a straight wavemaker. As the waves pass over the object, they’re refracted, and that change in wave motion creates a flow that pulls the object along until it settles at the wave’s focus. (Image and research credit: A. Sherif and L. Ristroph)

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