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Enter the characters you see below Sorry, we just need to make sure you’re not a robot. Enter the characters you see below Sorry, we just need to make sure you’re not a robot. This article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia’s quality standards. No cleanup reason has been specified. In physics and engineering, a ripple tank is a shallow glass tank of water used in schools and colleges to demonstrate the basic properties of waves. It is a specialized form of a wave tank.
Ripples may be generated by a piece of wood that is suspended above the tank on elastic bands so that it is just touching the surface. Screwed to wood is a motor that has an off centre weight attached to the axle. As the axle rotates the motor wobbles, shaking the wood and generating ripples. A number of wave properties can be demonstrated with a ripple tank. These include plane waves, reflection, refraction, interference and diffraction. When the rippler is attached with a point spherical ball and lowered so that it just touches the surface of the water, circular waves will be produced. When the rippler is lowered so that it just touches the surface of the water, plane waves will be produced.
By placing a metal bar in the tank and tapping the wooden bar a pulse of three of four ripples can be sent towards the metal bar. The ripples reflect from the bar. If the bar is placed at an angle to the wavefront the reflected waves can be seen to obey the law of reflection. The angle of incidence and angle of reflection will be the same. If a concave parabolic obstacle is used, a plane wave pulse will converge on a point after reflection. This point is the focal point of the mirror.
Circular waves can be produced by dropping a single drop of water into the ripple tank. If this is done at the focal point of the “mirror” plane waves will be reflected back. If a sheet of glass is placed in the tank, the depth of water in the tank will be shallower over the glass than elsewhere. The speed of a wave in water depends on the depth, so the ripples slow down as they pass over the glass.
This causes the wavelength to decrease. If the junction between the deep and shallow water is at an angle to the wavefront, the waves will refract. In practice, showing refraction with a ripple tank is quite tricky to do. The sheet of glass needs to be quite thick, with the water over it as shallow as possible. This maximizes the depth difference and so causes a greater velocity difference and therefore greater angle. If the water is too shallow, viscous drag effects cause the ripples to disappear very quickly. The glass should have smooth edges to minimise reflections at the edge.
If a small obstacle is placed in the path of the ripples, and a slow frequency is used, there is no shadow area as the ripples refract around it, as shown below on the left. A faster frequency may result in a shadow, as shown below on the right. If a large obstacle is placed in the tank, a shadow area will probably be observed. If an obstacle with a small gap is placed in the tank the ripples emerge in an almost semicircular pattern.