Surfactants on troubled waters

Detlef Lohse*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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'Storm oil' - nearly water-insoluble oil poured into the ocean and acting as a surfactant - has been used since ancient times to smooth the waves on the ocean. It was first scientifically described by Benjamin Franklin (Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond., vol. 64, 1774, pp. 445-460). In a recent paper, by combining highly controlled experiments in a wave tank and direct numerical simulations, Erinin et al. (J. Fluid Mech., vol. 972, 2023, R5) have now beautifully revealed the strong effect of soluble surfactants on the dynamics of plunging breakers. Remarkably, it is not the change in surface tension which mainly matters, but the surface tension gradient which emerges through compression and dilation of the plunging breaker surface.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberF1
JournalJournal of fluid mechanics
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2023


  • biological fluid dynamics
  • UT-Hybrid-D


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