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Curtin researchers develop seismic technology

Wednesday, April 20th, 2022

Exploration Toolkit

Originally developed to identify locations to drill for gold, a new technology for detecting seismic energy has been developed by researchers from Curtin University which can now be used for any commodity using salt-tolerant fibre optic cable.

The distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) seismic-detection system, supported by the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia (MRIWA), will allow seismic waves to be measured more effectively as they pass through rocks and soil beneath the surface.

“This new technology will create new explorative opportunities in Western Australia, where seismic surveying was previously either too expensive or challenging for mineral companies,” WA Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston said.

The fibre-optic sensors used in DAS are an order of magnitude cheaper and deliver data density and resolution higher than conventional seismic technology.

Innovative deployment solutions developed by Milovan Urosevic and his research team at Curtin University also allow DAS to be laid out rapidly in both 2D and 3D configurations with minimal handling. 

The corrosion resistance of fibre-optic cable brings the added advantage of making DAS technology amenable to long-term use in saturated and hyper-saline conditions.

These characteristics make DAS particularly valuable as a surveying tool across salt lakes, which are known to overlie prospective geology in many areas of WA.

DAS will use laser light to measure the distortion of a buried glass fibre. The laser light is a more robust technology that is resistant to the often-harsh environments in WA.

Johnston hopes it will help companies discover new mineral resources, adding that the system “could help find the next big discovery in WA, which could lead to the opening of new mines and new jobs”.

Set to deliver cost savings in mineral exploration and assist exploration companies in discovering new mineral resources that previously posed too challenging to find, Johnston said the seismic detection system would mean “unlocking our state’s mineral potential”.

“The McGowan Government is committed to investing in scientific research that supports our mining sector,” Johnston said.

“The world-leading work of Western Australian researchers provides a competitive edge to our state’s mining industry.”

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