Experimental investigation of wave tip variability of impacting waves

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
71 Downloads (Pure)


We present an experimental study on the variation in wave impact location and present a mechanism for the development of free surface instabilities on the wave crest for repeatable plunging wave impacts on a vertical wall. The existence of free surface instabilities on an impacting wave is well known, but their characteristics and formation mechanism are relatively unknown. The development of the global wave shape is measured using a visualization camera, whereas the local wave shape is measured with an accurate stereo-planar laser-induced fluorescence technique. A repeatable wave is generated with negligible system variability. The global wave behavior resembles that of a plunging breaker, with a gas pocket cross-sectional area defined by an ellipse of constant aspect ratio. The variability of the local wave profile increases significantly as it approaches the wall. The impact location varies by ∼0.5% of the wave height or more than a typical pressure sensor diameter. Additionally, the wave tip accelerates to a velocity of 1.5√gh0 compared to the global wave velocity of 1.2√gh0. The difference in impact location and velocity can result in a pressure variation of ∼25%. A mechanism for instability development is observed as the wave tip becomes thinner and elongates when it approaches the wall. A flapping liquid sheet develops that accelerates the wave tip locally and this triggers a spanwise Rayleigh–Taylor instability.
Original languageEnglish
Article number082110
Number of pages15
JournalPhysics of Fluids
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository 'You share, we take care!' - Taverne project https://www.openaccess.nl/en/you-share-we-take-care

Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • surface waves
  • flow instabilities
  • Flow visualization
  • fluid mechanics
  • Wave impact


Dive into the research topics of 'Experimental investigation of wave tip variability of impacting waves'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this