Hele-Shaw beach creation by breaking waves: a mathematics-inspired experiment

Anthony R. Thornton, Avraham J. van der Horn, Elena Gagarina, Wout Zweers, Devaraj van der Meer, Onno Bokhove

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Fundamentals of nonlinear wave-particle interactions are studied experimentally in a Hele-Shaw configuration with wave breaking and a dynamic bed. To design this configuration, we determine, mathematically, the gap width which allows inertial flows to survive the viscous damping due to the side walls. Damped wave sloshing experiments compared with simulations confirm that width-averaged potential-flow models with linear momentum damping are adequately capturing the large scale nonlinear wave motion. Subsequently, we show that the four types of wave breaking observed at real-world beaches also emerge on Hele-Shaw laboratory beaches, albeit in idealized forms. Finally, an experimental parameter study is undertaken to quantify the formation of quasi-steady beach morphologies due to nonlinear, breaking waves: berm or dune, beach and bar formation are all classified. Our research reveals that the Hele-Shaw beach configuration allows a wealth of experimental and modelling extensions, including benchmarking of forecast models used in the coastal engineering practice, especially for shingle beaches.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1123-1145
Number of pages23
JournalEnvironmental fluid mechanics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


  • Laboratory experiments
  • Potential flow and shallow water simulations
  • Hele-Shaw cell
  • Mathematical design
  • Shingle beaches
  • 2023 OA procedure


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