In May 2022, the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT) and EMACOM - Telecomunicações da Madeira signed a protocol to promote the use of optical fiber for research purposes - the first step towards the creation of the GEOLab. Six months later, Orlando Frazão, researcher at INESC TEC, coordinated the first research project to use the EllaLink GeoLab - infrastructure created from the EllaLink submarine cable to study the conditions of the ocean floor.
EllaLink GeoLab is supported on a third fiber installed in the derivation to Madeira, owned by EMACOM, which also provides the services of hosting the measuring equipment with DAS technology at the Amparo mooring station.
The management and operation of the EllaLink GeoLab experiments is the responsibility of the FCT, through the FCCN Unit, which ensures the access of the research and education community to these resources, acting as "a glue that ensures communication between all the participating entities and companies", as Clayton Costa, of the FCCN Unit, says. Clayton Costa also highlights the strategic importance of the GEOLab project as an important advance for Portugal, by allowing that "regions that are not located on the continent may be the stage for new projects".
We invited INESC TEC's researcher Orlando Frazão to explain us how these resources have contributed to scientific work, namely the role that GeoLab's underlying technology can play in protecting the oceans:
FCCN: How are the GeoLab resources important for your research?
Orlando Frazão: Over the past few years, INESC TEC has developed and worked on projects in the area of distributed measurement, both in laboratory environments and in real situations. The close collaboration with the University of Alcalá has allowed the acquisition of knowledge with the DAS [Distributed Acoustic Sensor] technology.
The need to seek partners who can use this technology is one of the goals of the Center for Applied Photonics. The collaboration with EllaLink GeoLab will allow the application of DAS technology in a real application, namely by taking advantage of the installation of submarine cables and their connectorization with DAS equipment to study various phenomena of nature and human activities. The main objective of this research project is the monitoring of submarine cables located in Madeira using DAS technology. It also aims to analyze and compare the results obtained with DAS installed in various parts of the world.
FCCN: What results have been obtained, from GeoLab, and how is this knowledge relevant to the ongoing research?
Orlando Frazão: At this moment, the equipment is in data acquisition mode. Considering the large amount of data to be stored, its analysis is complex and will take several months to be completed. However, the knowledge acquired will be very relevant for understanding the movement of tides, boats, and the detection of microseisms.
FCCN: How do you evaluate the process of articulation with the infrastructure? Are all expectations being met?
Orlando Frazão: The process of articulation with the infrastructure was complex, but the collaboration between the two partners has been excellent and we hope that the system in operation will show fruitful results by the end of the project.
FCCN: What do you think is the relevance of GeoLab, within the national scientific system?
Orlando Frazão: I think that Portugal has a very important maritime coast, which is nothing more than a living laboratory full of potential for the development of scientific activities. It is also of high importance to protect our coast, a process that, ideally, should be done 24 hours a day and in real time. DAS technology enables such monitoring and we hope to demonstrate this achievement by the end of the project. The future is at sea and I think we should make use of our scientific community for national and international scientific enrichment.