With this in mind, Philippe Jousset and colleagues set up an experiment in Iceland where fiber-optic cables were transformed into a series of sensors to record natural and man-made seismic waves. They found that, although the method still needs refining, the sensors are able to quantify even small strains and displacements. The authors note that the cables not only record seismic signals but were able to resolve (in surprising detail) the surrounding geological structures at depth.
So with a bit of repurposing, already-existing broadband cables could be used as everyday seismic sensors.
Ultimately, this unconventional usage of infrastructure could be applied to a wide array of geological studies. Researchers envision that this technology could benefit volcano monitoring, seismic hazard assessment, landslide monitoring, and global seismology — by using transatlantic optical cables.
Jousset and colleagues aren’t the only ones thinking about this. In a recently-published paper, a different team described a somewhat similar approach: they’ve used transoceanic underwater cables as seismometers. Certainly, this idea has potential, and there are high hopes that it will be fruitfully applied in the future..
The study, “Dynamic strain determination using fibre-optic cables allows imaging of seismological and structural features,” has been published in Nature Communications.