A look at the world’s largest artificial wave generator

The Delta Flume will officially be the world’s largest artificial wave generator by October 5th. Located at the Deltares Research Institute, Netherlands, the wave generator is a massive concrete tank boasting some 300 meters in length, 9.5 meters in depth and 5 meters in width.

At one side of this tanks sits a wave board, this is a massive plate that moves back and forth and by doing so, it simulates huge waves in the water used to fill the tank.


wave generator

[Image Courtesy of Science Mag]

The tank can hold up to 9 million liters of water and can generate waves up to 5 meters high. “Yesterday, we had a wave of over 5 meters, but we’re hoping to get some larger ones,” Dr Bas Hofland, a coastal engineer, told BBC.

Anything can be at the other end of the tank and that is one of the important aspects of this wave generator. When the wave board produces waves in the water body, these waves travel the whole length of the water tank gathering energy and height in the process and then subsequently crashing into anything that is placed at the end of the tank. This can, for example, be a flood-defense structure and its durability can be tested by crashing these gigantic waves into it.

It is important that a very large wave generator be built. Previously, scientists modeled the behavior of waves on a much smaller scale but that has proven to be not so sufficient. Materials such as sand, water, clay and grass have different properties in a small-scale model than in a large-scale model.

“Certain things we cannot make smaller, certain things we want to model at full-scale,” says Dr Hofland. “Grass on a dyke, or clay, or sands – they are things you cannot scale down because the properties change.”

It is not surprising that the Dutch are so interested in this technology; two-thirds of their land is below sea level and stands the risk of flooding. In 1953, a flood killed over 1800 people and it makes sense that the Netherlands are trying their best to be prepared in case something like that happens again.

But this is not only about the Dutch. A report by UN’s International panel on Climate Change in 2013 issued a warning that the average sea levels could rise by up to a meter. In another study, it was estimated that 600 million people could stand the risk of flooding annually. This disaster would cost the world a whopping $100 trillion each year, so this technology is a step forward towards a better future.

Source: Science Mag