A Water Wave “Tractor Beam”

The research paper from Nature Physics is “Generation and reversal of surface flows by propagating waves”. Full text, a PDF edition, and five MP4 movies illustrating the phenomenon are available at the link. Here is the abstract:

The ability to send a wave to fetch an object from a distance would find a broad range of applications. Quasi-standing Faraday waves on water create horizontal vortices, yet it is not known whether propagating waves can generate large-scale flows—small-amplitude irrotational waves only push particles in the direction of propagation. Here we show that when waves become three-dimensional as a result of the modulation instability, a floater can be forced to move towards the wave source. The mechanism for this is the generation of surface vortices by waves propagating away from vertically oscillating plungers. We introduce a new conceptual framework for understanding wave-driven flows, which enables us to engineer inward and outward surface jets, stationary vortices, and other complex flows. The results form a new basis for the remote manipulation of objects on fluid surfaces and for a better understanding of the motion of floaters in the ocean, the generation of wave-driven jets, and the formation of Lagrangian coherent structures.