Scientists may be able to “cloak” ocean waves

In the beloved "Star Trek" universe created by the late Gene Roddenberry, several alien races had spaceships with cloaking devices. These would allow them to remain invisible to the enemy until such time as they saw fit to engage in battle.

When cloaked, the ship is still there, you just can't see it anymore. This is the idea behind a new paper presented at the 65th Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society's Division of Fluid Dynamics. However, it is being applied to ocean waves in an effort to protect coastal regions from the damaging effects of hurricanes – an issue of particular importance to those on the East Coast still recovering from Hurricane Sandy.

While the science behind this theory is pretty complex, here is the general idea. Ocean waters are separated into layers with cold, heavy waters at the bottom near the sea floor and lighter, warmer ones toward the surface. Waves occur in both layers. By "corrugating," or creating the right structures on the ocean floor, scientists believe they can transform surface waves into internal waves and vice versa.

If they can accomplish this, destructive surface waves that assault coastal areas during powerful storms could be "cloaked," or transformed into internal waves. They would still be there, but now they would be below the water's surface and not doing catastrophic damage to marinas, docks, residential homes and other structures.

Reza Alam, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley and author of the paper, spoke to Phys.org prior to his presentation.

"Cloaking in seas by modifying the floor may play a role in protecting near-shore or offshore structures and in creating shelter for fishermen during storms," Alam said. "In reverse, it can cause the disappearance and reappearance of surface waves in areas where sandbars or any other appreciable bottom variations exist."

Perhaps one day soon innovative methods of hermetic sealing and joining dissimilar metals will be responsible for the equipment used to achieve this goal.

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