An international team of scientists, among them Maltese scientists from the University of Malta, has made a discovery which will lead to an easier and cheaper way to observe underwater earthquakes. This will be done through the use of lasers with already existing fibre optic cables.
To date, scientists use a considerable amount of equipment to observe earthquakes a few seconds after their occurrence. Most of this equipment is on land, rather than under the sea.The international scientists, among them scientists from the university’s Physics Department, have come up with this easier and cheaper discovery.
Dr Andre’ Xuereb from the University’s Physics Department explained that the team used lasers to observe the microscopic movement of the earth by measuring the effect on Enemalta and Melita’s fibre optic cables between Malta and Sicily.
Dr Xuereb added that “we have found a new method of detecting small tremors under the sea and in other areas which we are presently unable to detect. We can do this without changing the already existing communications infrastructure, by simply adding pieces of equipment here and there, and this has suddenly become like a microphone for the world.”
Along with the Maltese scientists, other scientists from the Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca Metrologica of Italy, the National Physics Laboratory in the UK and the British Geological Society took part in the research.
Dr Xuereb stated that this discovery was accidentally made in the course of other research work.
“We did not start to check on underwater tremors. This was a starting point, and resulted in this new technology. And if we shut the door on basic research, chances are that these new technologies will not be discovered.”
The interational team of scientists is now working to advance and develop this technology and observe smaller earthquakes, and to reduce the size of the apparatus so that it can be used in telecommunications networks worldwide.