Fiber-optic lines can be used to detect earthquakes

A new system developed at Stanford University is able to analyze the disturbances recorded in the network to determine the imminence of a seismic occurrence.

A group of researchers at the Stanford University of North America have developed a earthquake detection system that could give new use to fiber optic lines. According to the team, it is possible to duplicate their functionalities, using them to predict and communicate the imminence of seismic activity to the responsible authorities.
Given the structure of these fibers, which are thin and highly sensitive, researchers have discovered that it is possible to associate certain movement patterns in the cables with the arrival of a ground shaking. For this, however, it is necessary to use an apparatus which measures disturbances in the line, such as a laser interrogator.
The work of the researchers consisted in the development of a technological system that reads and relates the measurements with possible seismic activities, specifying the magnitude, the direction of the tremors and the different types of seismic waves. The sensitivity of the system allows coverage of incidents with various types of intensity, including weaker earthquakes that may go unnoticed by more traditional detectors.
As Engadget writes, optical fiber earthquake detection is not entirely new, but the difference from existing techniques is substantial, since earlier models required the cables to be wrapped in cement and connected in some way, the land. The Stanford model, on the other hand, can work with any type of current installation.

The existing prototype, however, still has some conditioning factors. It is limited by the size of the fiber network, for example, which may alienate the system from some rural areas, and has not yet been tested in scenarios longer than the perimeter of Stanford University, which does not ensure its application in areas denser than this. It is certain that the installation, based on an existing fiber system, would always be cheaper than the implementation of dedicated sensors.