Researchers at Loughborough University in collaboration with the British Geological Survey have developed a sound sensor system that can accurately predict the likelihood of a landslide. The system works by measuring and analyzing the acoustic behavior of soil to determine when a landslide is about to happen so preventative measures can be taken.
The detection system consists of networks of sensors buried in hillsides and embankments at risk of collapse. The sensors act as underground microphones that record all acoustic activity of the soil created by movement under the surface. The movement of soil before a landslide creates increasing rates of noise. Noise rates are created by inter-particle friction and accordingly are proportional to rates of soil movement. Increased noise means a slop is closer to failure. Since each sensor transmits a signal to a central computer for analysis, once a high-enough noise rate is recorded, the system can send a warning via text message to authorities in the area. This early warning will allow them to evacuate the area earlier, close affected transportion routes, and possibly stabilize the soil.
Though this information has been known since the 1960s, this early-detection sound sensor system is the first system of its kind in the world to be able to capture and process the information in real time to provide an early warning. This system may have the ability to save thousands of lives in landslide-prone countries.
Read more about the discovery here