Fiber For Earthquake Prevention?

March 28th, 2011 by · 1 Comment

There's this interesting article out of Taiwan today detailing an unorthodox use for submarine fiber, though I think they got the terminology wrong.  At least, I don't think one can prevent earthquakes with optical fiber, not even with the latest equipment!  Early warning of earthquakes and tsunami though, that makes sense and it appears to be what they are doing.

Under the Marine Cable Hosted Observatory (MACHO) program, they are putting 45km of fiber from Yilan County's Toucheng region out into the Pacific, but it's a one-way thing and won't land anywhere else.  Rather they hooked it up to seismometers and/or pressure gauges on the ocean floor.  When the gear detects an earthquake or tsunami, the data reaches land at the speed of light (in fiber), which of course propagates much faster than vibrations in rock or water.

The result can be an extra 10 seconds of warning in an earthquake or 10 minutes for a tsunami.  Given the proportions of the disaster in Japan, such technology obviously is going to get more attention.  NEC is doing the building, and the link should be operational by October of this year, with an extension to 100km by 2013 on the drawing board.

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Categories: Fiber optic cable · Undersea cables

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