TIMs submarine fibre-optic cables used for the first time in Italy to detect seismic events

Telecom Italia’s fibre connection between the island Vulcano and Milazzo in Sicily has enabled the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology and the German Research Centre for Geosciences Potsdam to monitor the seismic activity of volcanic events in real time

The submarine fibre-optic cables of TIM can be used by research and science thanks to the experiments conducted by the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) and the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) Potsdam to monitor seismic events related to active volcanism.

The experiment, unique in Italy, was carried out in the Sicilian waters for around one month using the section of submarine optical fibre linking the TIM power station on Vulcano, one of the Aeolian Islands, to Milazzo in northern Sicily, which stretches over a distance of around 50 kilometres on the seabed.

Optical fibre as seismic sensor pr 2
Route of the underwater fibre optic cable connecting Milazzo in north-eastern Sicily with the island Vulcano. (Gilda Currenti (INGV) and Philippe Jousset (GFZ) auf Basis von: GoogleMaps, (c) 2022 Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO,Google,Bilder (c) 2022 TerraMetrics,Kartendaten (c) 2022

Using optical fibre as a seismic sensor makes it possible to record signals with high spatial (around 4 metres) and temporal resolution (1 kHz).

The DAS (Distributed Acoustic Sensing) device installed at the power station sends pulses of light into the fibre and records the backscattered signal influenced by dynamic strain variations. By analysing this, it is possible to derive the movement of the earth remotely via the Internet.

Optical fibre as seismic sensor
Example of installation of a Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) device to measure ground vibrations by interrogating underwater fibre optics on the island Volcano. The submarine cable becomes a sensor that detects the signals generated by volcanic activity. (Rosalba Napoli (INGV))

During the experiment, around 20 Terabytes of data were continuously acquired, which are now being studied by scientists to understand the processes responsible for the reawakening of volcanic activity on the island. Right from the first analyses it was apparent that the new technology used has proven to have excellent signal accuracy and sensitivity of seismic signals, making it possible to observe the dynamic strain variations created by anthropogenic and natural sources, with clear strain variations on the fibre generated by local seismic events.

This important initiative paves the way for possible areas of application where the TIM Group’s fibre-optic, land and underwater infrastructures can be used in the scientific field to develop next-generation sensor solutions thanks to the expertise of leading international research bodies, such as the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology and the German Research Centre for Geosciences Potsdam.

Optical fibre as seismic sensor
Example of a seismic signal recorded by the DAS during the Vulcano experiment. (Philippe Jousset (GFZ) and Gilda Currenti (INGV))

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