The sound of waves breaking on shore, or against an obstruction or jetty, is an immediately recognizable sound pattern which could potentially be employed by a sensor system to identify obstructions. If frequency patterns produced by breaking waves can be reproduced and mapped in a laboratory setting, a foundational understanding of the physics behind this process could be established, which could then be employed in sensor development for navigation.

This study explores whether wave-breaking frequencies correlate with the physics behind the collapsing of the wave, and whether frequencies of breaking waves recorded in a laboratory tank will follow the same pattern as frequencies produced by ocean waves breaking on a beach.

An artificial “beach” was engineered to replicate breaking waves inside a laboratory wave tank. Video and audio recordings of waves breaking in the tank were obtained, and audio of ocean waves breaking on the shoreline was recorded. The audio data was analysed in frequency charts. The video data was evaluated to correlate bubble sizes to frequencies produced by the waves.

The results supported the hypothesis that frequencies produced by breaking waves in the wave tank followed the same pattern as those produced by ocean waves. Analysis utilizing a solution to the Rayleigh-Plesset equation showed that the bubble sizes produced by breaking waves were inversely related to the pattern of frequencies. This pattern can be reproduced in a controlled laboratory environment and extrapolated for use in developing navigational sensors for potential applications in marine navigation such as for use with autonomous ocean vehicles.

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