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Wave Machine Simulates Flooding

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

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Its promotional video has been compared to a blockbuster movie trailer, but a Dutch company’s wave simulation facility is all science and not fiction.

The Delta Flume, developed by Detares Research Institute in The Netherlands, is a powerful machine that was created to make the largest man-made waves in the world, according to a recent article in The Atlantic’s online zine, City Lab.

“We have a unique test facility where it is possible to test at full scale the effect of extreme waves on dikes, dunes, breakwaters and offshore structures,” the company wrote on its website. “There is considerable global demand for the realistic testing of hydraulic structures in particular situations.”

Designed to Flood

According to City Lab, the Delta Flume—which took three years to complete—is built like a large trough. It is 300 meters (984 feet) long, 9.5 meters (31 feet) high and 5 meters (16 feet) wide. The facility can hold 9 million liters (2.4 million gallons) of water and a single wave can get as high as 15 feet. Waves are powered by a 1.9 megawatt electric motor.

The Delta Flume has been billed as the largest wave maker in the world and was built to study ways to control coastal flooding.

Built by Dutch contractor Ballast Nedam Infrastructuur, the Delta Flume also has a pump station with a capacity of 1,000 liters (264 gallons) per second, according to Deltares’ website. The 10-meter-high (32-foot-high) wave board was built by MTS Systems Corp. of Eden Prairie, MN.

One end of the channel is a simulated model of a coast where the researchers can test how flood-defense technology such as barriers, dams and dikes hold up against waves, City Lab said. To create the flooding conditions, a system of hydraulics pushes and pulls the water in the trough.

“Grass on a dike, or clay, or sands—they are things you cannot scale down because the properties change,” said Bas Hofland, a coastal engineer at Deltares.

Deltares Research Institute / YouTube

The wave simulator was inspired by 1953 flooding in The Netherlands, which covered 600 square miles and killed about 2,000 people.

The facility was “officially inaugurated” in October, but testing began in July, according to City Lab. For the first test, researchers studied the strength of 5,000 Basalton blocks (concrete stones) used as cladding on a levee. City Lab said the researchers will use the data from that test—which have yet to be published—to better calculate how large blocks used to build a levee should be and enable more precise design and maintenance.


The Delta Flume was inspired by 1953’s severe flooding in The Netherlands. That year, nearly 600 square miles of the country were covered in flood waters and about 2,000 people died as a result, City Lab said. After that, the Dutch became serious about preventing floods, the website said.

“The Dutch have, in some ways, an easy problem to solve,” Dale Morris, an American economist working for the Dutch government on its U.S.-based anti-flood efforts, reportedly told CityLab in 2013. “The entire nation is at risk if the western portion floods. So the entire country is united. It’s not a question of should we do [flood protection], but how.”


Tagged categories: EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Environmental Controls; Health and safety; Infrastructure; Offshore; Research; Seacoast exposure

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