Build A Seismometer Out Of Plumbing Parts

For those outside the rocking and rolling of California’s tectonic plate, earthquakes probably don’t come up on a daily basis as a topic of conversation. Regardless, the instrument to measure them is called a seismometer, and it’s entirely possible to build one yourself. [Bob LeDoux] has shared his article on how to build a Fluid Mass Electrolytic Seismometer, and it’s an impressive piece of work.

This is an instrument which works very differently from the typical needle-and-graph type seen in the movies. Fluid is held in a sealed chamber, with a restricted orifice in the center of a tube. The fluid level is monitored at each side of the orifice. When motion occurs, fluid levels change at either side which allows seismic activity to be measured.

Hooked up to some basic analog electronics, in this form, the device only shows instantaneous activity. However, it would be trivial for the skilled maker to hook this up to a datalogging setup to enable measurements to be plotted and stored. The entire project can be built with simple hand tools and a basic PCB, making it highly accessible.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen a seismometer, either – the Raspberry Shake project is a distributed network of sensors running on the Raspberry Pi.

Raspberry Shake Detects Quakes

The Raspberry Pi’s goal, at least while it was being designed and built, was to promote computer science education by making it easier to access a working computer. What its low price tag also enabled was a revolution in distributed computing projects (among other things). One of those projects is the Raspberry Shake, a seismograph tool which can record nearby earthquakes.

Of course, the project just uses the Pi as a cost-effective computing solution. It runs custom software, but if you want to set up your own seismograph then you’ll also need some additional hardware. There are different versions of the Raspberry Shake, the simplest using a single Geophone which is a coil and magnet. Vibrations are detected by sensing the electric signal generated by the magnet moving within the coil of wire. Other models increase the count to three Geophones, or add in MEMS accelerometers, you can easily whip one of these up on your own bench.

The entire setup will fit nicely on a coffee table as well, making it much smaller (and cheaper) than a comparable professional seismograph. Once all of the Raspberry Shakes around the world were networked together, it gives an accurate, real-time view of seismic activity anywhere you can imagine. If you’ve ever been interested in geology or just want to see where the latest earthquake was, check out their projects. But you don’t need even a Raspberry Pi to see where the earthquakes are, thanks to a Hackaday Prize entry all you need is a Twitter account.

Thanks to [Rich Cochran] aka [AG6QR] for the tip!

Hackaday Prize Entry: Earthquake Warnings via Tweets

Seismic waves travel through the Earth’s crust at about four kilometers a second. Light travels through fiber at about 200,000 kilometers per second. Taking network lag into account, it’s possible to read a Tweet about an earthquake a few seconds before the shaking starts. This is the concept behind an XKCD strip and a project for the Hackaday Prize.

[Zalmotek]’s Earthquake Validation Gadget is an Internet-connected box designed for those few seconds between asking yourself, ‘is this an earthquake’ and saying, ‘yeah, this is totally an earthquake’. Inside this wall-mounted box is both a sensitive vibration sensor and a microcontroller connected to the Internet. If the vibration sensor goes off, it checks the Internet — the USGS website is a great start, by the way — for any large, local earthquakes. If there’s a possibility that shaking is an earthquake, lights and sirens go off, telling you to take cover.

The idea of an ‘earthquake warning device’ isn’t new. The USGS has a system in place for just this sort of thing. It’s good to see independent researchers working on this, though, and it makes for a great entry to the Hackaday Prize.

We Have a Problem: Earthquake Prediction

Nepal | 25 April 2015 | 11:56 NST

It was a typical day for the 27 million residents of Nepal – a small south Asian country nestled between China and India. Men and women went about their usual routine as they would any other day. Children ran about happily on school playgrounds while their parents earned a living in one of the country’s many industries. None of them could foresee the incredible destruction that would soon strike with no warning. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook the country at its core. 9,000 people died that day. How many didn’t have to?

History is riddled with earthquakes and their staggering death tolls. Because many are killed by collapsing infrastructure, even a 60 second warning could save many thousands of lives. Why can’t we do this? Or a better question – why aren’t we doing this? Meet [Micheal Doody], a Reproductive Endocrinologist with a doctorate in steel rodphysical biochemistry. While he doesn’t exactly have the background needed to pioneer a novel approach to predict earthquakes, he’s off to a good start.

He uses piezoelectric pressure sensors at the heart of the device, but they’re far from the most interesting parts. Three steel balls, each weighing four pounds, are suspended from a central vertical post. Magnets are used to balance the balls 120 degrees apart from each other. They exert a lateral force on the piezo sensors, allowing for any movement of the vertical post to be detected. An Arduino and some amplifiers are used to look at the piezo sensors.

The system is not meant to measure actual vibration data. Instead it looks at the noise floor and uses statistical analysis to see any changes in the background noise. Network several of these sensors along a fault line, and you have yourself a low cost system that could see an earthquake coming, potentially saving thousands of lives.

[Michael] has a TON of data on his project page. Though he’s obviously very skilled, he is not an EE or software guy. He could use some help with the signal analysis and other parts. If you would like to lend a hand and help make this world a better place, please get in touch with him.

Continue reading “We Have a Problem: Earthquake Prediction”

Earthquake detector could have helped during quakepocalypse

[Andrea] built a seismic wave detector that warns of a possible impending earthquake. Because P waves travel much faster than the “make everything shake” S waves, building a device that detects P waves serves as an early warning system that alerts building occupants to go under a door frame. [Andrea]’s build detects these fast-moving P waves and only took an hour to make.

Last August, those of us on the east coast of the US had to live through Quakepocalypse, a magnitude 5.9 earthquake centered around Middle of Nowhere, Virginia. For those of us who have decided to stay, rebuild, and put our garden chairs upright again (so brave…), [Andrea]’s build could have been very useful.

The mechanics of the build is very simple: a pair of springs and levers are electrically wired together so that whenever there’s a sudden shock, a buzzer goes off. It’s very similar to an ancient Chinese earthquake detector that detects P waves by dropping a ball into a frog’s mouth.

While we’re not sure if a few of [Andrea]’s devices would be needed to detect P waves coming in off-axis, the build is simple enough to build dozens of them. Check out the video of the build in action after the break here.

 

HaD links – Quakepocalypse Edition: August 23, 2011

Well, if you hadn’t noticed the news there has been a little bit of a shakeup on the east coast. I just arrived home after being evacuated due to a 30 second rumble the likes of which has not been felt on the east coast in something like 114 years. In lieu of the not so devastating but earth shaking event we thought we’d put together a few earthquake related links for you.

Earthquake-proof Wine Rack

First off instructables user [jofish] has a quick remedy if earthquakes are constantly destroying all the wine on your wine rack. He researched some existing commercial products and simply copied them by stapling cheap O rings to the front of the rack. We assume the back of the wine rack is secured to the wall as well.

Vertical Seismometer

Next up is a vertical seismometer from [Mike] over at mikesense.com. This was in response to a slightly more threatening 7.2 earthquake he experienced in Baja California last year. A vertical seismometer measures the movement of a weight either electronically or mechanically, and then damps the motion of the oscillation by a magnet or some other means. This particular design is known as the AS-1 developed by [Jeff Batten]. Matt’s page has links to everything you’d need to know including build videos.

Predict Seismic Activity with Hard Drives

If you are looking for some non-conventional ways of tracking seismic activity we have a pair of articles that detail earthquake tracking using your disk drive’s accelerometer. [Michael Stadler] realized the potential for all these sensors and released a program that creates a peer-to-peer network compiling data from the sensors. We are not too comfortable with the prospect of somebody tracking every time we drop or kick (or drop-kick) our laptops but 2500 users in Asia downloaded the software in ’06. The second article details an effort lead by IBM to monitor the fixed hard drives in server racks which generally remain far more stationary.

Simple DIY Earthquake Simulator

Finally for those of you who want to cause (miniature) earthquakes, we dug up this MTU project using plywood, an electric drill, rubber bands and some bearings to fabricate a DIY shake table (PDF warning). We are sure there are tons of improvements that can be made but this is a pretty fun project if you have a bunch of CNC parts lying around (we wish we did).

Chilean teen builds automatic earthquake alarm

chilean_teen_earthquake_alarm

When an earthquake is about to strike in Chile, who do you think is first to sound the alarm? You might be surprised that it’s not the government, but rather a 14 year old boy.

After living through an earthquake in 2010 and seeing the devastation this spring in Japan, Chilean teenager [Sebastian Alegria] decided that he wanted to construct something similar to Japan’s earthquake warning system. He purchased an off the shelf earthquake detector for less than $100, and connected it to his computer via an Arduino.

Now, whenever seismic activity is detected, his sensor tweets an alert letting his 29,000+ followers know that a perceptible earthquake is 5 to 30 seconds away. Apparently the Chilean government is working on a similar system that is still at least a year away, so in the meantime his fellow citizens rely on [Sebastian] instead.

While it might seem like a relatively easy hack to pull off compared to other earthquake detectors, we’re impressed by [Sebastian’s] creativity, and his will to help others. He’s been pounding away at computers since he was about 4 years old and has several other popular Twitter-based projects under his belt already, so we won’t be surprised if we hear from him again in the future.