Theoretical modeling of capillary surfer interactions on a vibrating fluid bath

Anand U. Oza, Giuseppe Pucci, Ian Ho, Daniel M. Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We present and analyze a theoretical model for the dynamics and interactions of "capillary surfers,"which are millimetric objects that self-propel while floating at the interface of a vibrating fluid bath. In our companion paper [I. Ho, Phys. Rev. Fluids 8, L112001 (2023)10.1103/PhysRevFluids.8.L112001], we reported the results of an experimental investigation of the surfer system, which showed that surfer pairs may lock into one of seven bound states, and that larger collectives of surfers self-organize into coherent flocking states. Our theoretical model for the surfers' positional and orientational dynamics approximates a surfer as a pair of vertically oscillating point sources of weakly viscous gravity-capillary waves. We derive an analytical solution for the associated interfacial deformation and thus the hydrodynamic force exerted by one surfer on another. Our model recovers the bound states found in experiments and exhibits good agreement with experimental data. Moreover, we conduct a linear stability analysis of bound state solutions and compute numerically the associated eigenvalues. We find that the spacings of the bound states are quantized on the capillary wavelength, with stable branches of equilibria separated by unstable ones. Generally, our work shows that self-propelling objects coupled by capillary waves constitute a promising platform for studying active matter systems in which both inertial and viscous effects are relevant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114001
JournalPhysical Review Fluids
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


Dive into the research topics of 'Theoretical modeling of capillary surfer interactions on a vibrating fluid bath'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this