Laser Technology Protects Global Communications Cables

In addition to a large global network of communication cables, the ocean’s depths are home to a rich ecosystem of marine animals. These vital wires are susceptible to damage from earthquakes and tsunamis. Scientists that track this seismic activity encounter a hurdle since the Earth’s surface is more than 70% water. However, the wires present a possible novel method for observing seismic activity using laser light. In a recent study, researchers tracked the structural health of these cables using laser technology known as Brillouin optical time domain reflectometry (BOTDR). This method has often been used to monitor significant projects like dams and bridges. By utilizing this technology in an aquatic environment, cables prone to breakage may be quickly detected and repaired.

To measure tension 2,100 meters below the ocean’s surface, the researchers deployed a 6-km-long wire using a remotely controlled vehicle. It was connected to a massive 29-km fiber optic cable to monitor seismic activity in Catania, Sicily. A laser was fired into one end of the fiber optic cable over two hours to do this. The light was then detected at the spots where it scattered off flaws, revealing the places where the cable was distorted.

Through the revolutionary use of laser technology, seismic activity may be detected before an earthquake strikes, giving planners time to develop plans to minimize harm to people, property, and communications.

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