Tiny sensor used in smart phones could create urban seismic network

Sep 29, 2013

A tiny chip used in smart phones to adjust the orientation of the screen could serve to create a real-time urban seismic network, easily increasing the amount of strong motion data collected during a large earthquake, according to a new study published in the October issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America (BSSA).

Micro-Electro-Mechanical System (MEMS) accelerometers measure the rate of acceleration of ground motion and vibration of cars, buildings and installations. In the 1990s MEMS accelerometers revolutionized the automotive airbag industry and are found in many devices used daily, including smart phones, video games and laptops.

Antonino D'Alessandro and Giuseppe D'Anna, both seismologists at Istituto Nazionale di Geosifica e Vulcanologia in Italy, tested whether inexpensive MEMS accelerometers could reliably and accurately detect ground motion caused by earthquakes. They tested the LIS331DLH MEMS accelerometer installed in the iPhone mobile phone, comparing it to the earthquake sensor EpiSensor ES-T force balance accelerometer produced by Kinemetrics Inc.

The tests suggest that the MEMS can detect moderate to strong earthquakes (greater than magnitude 5) when located near the epicenter. The device produces sufficient noise to prevent it from accurately detecting lesser quakes—a limitation to its use in monitoring strong motion.

D'Alessandro and D'Anna note that the technology is rapidly evolving, and there will soon be MEMS sensors that are sensitive to quakes less than magnitude 5. The real advantage, say the authors, is the widespread use of mobile phones and laptops that include MEMS technology, making it possible to dramatically increase coverage when strong earthquakes occur.

The current state of the MEMS sensors, suggest the authors, could be used for the creation of an urban that could transmit in real-time data to a central location for assessment. The rich volume of data could help first responders identify areas of greatest potential damage, allowing them to allocate resources more effectively.

Explore further: Eye implant could lead to better glaucoma treatment

More information: The article, "Suitability of low-cost three-axis MEMS accelerometers in strong-motion seismology: tests on the LIS331DLH (iPhone) accelerometer," is published in October issue of BSSA.

Related Stories

Smartphones as seismometers intrigue Berkeley researchers

Dec 07, 2012

(Phys.org)—Researchers at the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory want to table smartphones as pocket-sized seismometers. The phones used as warning systems could make a life or death difference in the seconds one might have ...

First precise MEMS output measurement technique unveiled

May 14, 2013

The commercial application of MEMS, or micro-electro-mechanical systems, will receive a major boost today following the presentation of a brand new way to accurately measure the power requirements and outputs ...

Recommended for you

3D printed nose wins design award

1 hour ago

A Victoria University of Wellington design student is the New Zealand finalist for the James Dyson Award 2014 for his Master's project—a 3D printed prosthetic nose.

Engineering the Kelpies

2 hours ago

Recently, Falkirk in Scotland saw the opening of the Kelpies, two thirty metre high horse head sculptures either side of a lock in a new canal extension.

Technology on the catwalk

2 hours ago

Summer days bring thoughts of beach picnics, outdoor barbecues and pool parties. Yet it only takes the buzz of one tiny mosquito to dampen the fun.

Dismantling ships and the trajectory of steel

2 hours ago

Tell me how you dismantle a ship, and I'll tell how a region can prosper from its steel! This could be the motto of this master's cycle at ENAC during which the projects of two civil engineering students ...

User comments : 0