The recent earthquakes and tsunamis sparked a slew of research into designing disaster-proof infrastructure. The latest tech to boost scientists’ understanding how these disasters work is a wave-generating machine that mimics the activity of real tsunamis. Researchers hope that by understanding how tsunamis hit the shoreline, designers can construct buildings that can better withstand the wave’s impact. Plus, an increased knowledge of tsunami behavior could pave the way for more effective evacuation strategies.
The 148-foot-long wave channel was developed by University College London’s Earthquake and People Interaction Centre (EPICentre) and consulting engineers at HR Wallingford. The group successfully copied behavior of the first wave in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami in Thailand. By directing the simulated waves over a model coastal slope, scientists gained a better understanding of wave behavior once it hits the shore.
While other wave simulators exist, most rely on piston-based systems. The new tsunami generator is the first to utilize an air-driven system where fans and control valves suck up water in the tank and then release it. That change in tech allows the new machine to create a wider range of tsunami conditions such as draw-down phenomenon, where the sea is sucked out before rushing back to the shoreline.
Scientists at the Oxfordshire lab hope to make the tsunami generator available across the globe. Once researchers can fully understand tsunami behavior, disaster-proof buildings and better evacuation strategies should be just down the road.