Scientists at Stanford University believe that kilometers of optical fiber used to transmit high-speed Internet in the future can turn into a whole network for the detection and investigation of earthquakes. Biondo Biondi, professor of geophysics at the Stanford School of Earth, said that in this way it is possible to obtain an inexpensive observatory with billions of sensors. To do this, the researchers developed a technology that captures seismic activity by analyzing the displacement of fiber optic lines.
Special laser sensors monitor the offsets and send information about the force and direction of the tremors. The system is able not only to identify various types of seismic waves, determining the severity of the threat, but also to detect very minor or local earthquakes that might go unnoticed.
Tracking of seismic activity on the basis of optical fiber is not something completely new, but previously it was concentrated around acoustic sounding, which requires wrapping the cable in cement and fixing it to the ground surface. The new method involves the use of existing fiber optic lines placed in plastic pipes.
True, there are many problems in the way of implementing this idea. One of them is the restriction of the distribution of the fiber-optic network – this system may not work in rural areas. At the moment, the researchers have launched a trial network within a 3 mile radius around Stanford University. Therefore, it is not known how it will work within the city or the whole country. But even in this case it is much more advantageous to install special equipment.