NPL, EXA, Others Turn Subsea Cable Infrastructure Into a Geophysical Sensor Array

May 23rd, 2022 by · Leave a Comment

EXA Infrastructure has been helping out with an interesting research project under the North Atlantic. Scientists at the UK’s National Physical Laboratory have found a way to use subsea fiber and power cables as a real-time, large-scale ocean monitoring tool.  The research was recently published in the prestigious journal Science.

Building on prior work that leveraged a subsea cable to detect underwater earthquakes, the idea is to use many cables in parallel as a sensor array. EXA provided the use of one of its transatlantic cable systems, a 5860km system between the UK and Canada that presumably is one of the legs of the GTT Atlantic/Hibernia Atlantic/360Networks cable built in 2001.

The work demonstrated the detection of earthquakes, waves, and currents on spans between repeaters across the entire connection. While they did this for just 12 sensors along this particular cable, it would be possible to increase that to 129. If applied broadly to other cable systems, huge areas of the globe’s ocean floor could be monitored that aren’t today.

Applications beyond earthquake seismology could include better tsunami detection out in the Pacific and studies of seafloor temperature changes and deep-water flows. There’s a lot we don’t know about the deep oceans, and it turns out the cables we have been laying along it for connectivity between continents might be a great way to change that.

Also working on the project were experts from the University of Edinburgh, the British Geological Survey, the Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca Metrologica, and Google.

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Categories: Undersea cables

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