Now Fiber Optic Cables Undersea Can Detect Earthquakes, Scientists Say

by Ernest Thomas
Now Fiber Optic Cables Undersea Can Detect Earthquakes, Scientists Say

Usually, fiber-optic cables are good to have high-speed internet. Now, scientists have discovered a new use of these cables. They are using fiber-optic cables as seismic sensors. A team of researchers from the University of California has temporarily transformed existing underwater fiber-optic cables into seismic sensors. They have attempted the experiment on fiber-optic cable networks present across the sea bed of the Pacific Ocean. The researchers have recorded an earthquake of magnitude 3.5. According to the research, scientists have turned 20 kilometers of the unused cable into the alternative of 10,000 earthquake sensing stations.

Information passes in the form of light from the fiber-optic cable. A widespread network of fiber optic cables links all the continents except Antarctica. It is liable for transferring telecommunication data, including internet traffic and telephone. The team has used a methodology called distributed acoustic sensing. It functions by sending pulses of light via the cable and estimate the reflecting light. As a result, it detects slight movements. Nathaniel Lindsey, from the University of California, Berkeley, has led the team of researchers involved in the study. He said moving a particular part of the cable because there exists seismic wave propagating results in visible seismic wave strain on the wire.

Even more, the team has studied the use of fiber-optic sensing that would assist in assessing physical qualities like pressure, acceleration, strain, temperature, and voltage. Jonathan Ajo-Franklin, the study’s co-author, said through the trial, they eventually aim to use all of the active fiber-optic networks worldwide. He surmises there are over 10 million kilometers of cables, which could enable seismic monitoring system in previously unreachable areas. But before achieving the goal, it is essential to reveal they can collect those measurements without obstructing the data passing from fiber-optic cables. The team has published its findings in the journal Science.

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