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Honeywell Accelerometer Senses Distant Earthquake

Honeywell Accelerometer Senses Distant Earthquake

Ron Hartman knows a thing or two about accelerometers. But even he was surprised when the precision resonating beam accelerometer he was testing in Redmond, Washington, picked up vibrations from an earthquake off the coast of Alaska.

“Our accelerometers are extremely sensitive to vibrations, but frankly it never occurred to us that one of our units could pick up tremors from an undersea earthquake 2,667 miles away,” said Hartman, Senior Technical Director for Accelerometers at Honeywell’s Sensing Center of Excellence in Redmond. “When we first saw the test results, we thought there was a problem with the sensor. Then we saw news reports about the earthquake and put two and two together.”

Accelerometers are ingenious devices that measure the rate of velocity change in all kinds of everyday applications. Honeywell’s family of precision accelerometers are used primarily in aerospace guidance, navigation and control, and industrial measurement and control. The top-of-the line precision resonating beam accelerometer Hartman was testing the day the earthquake hit is the type normally used for defense navigation applications.

The test was conducted in January 2018 using an isolation platform, which was intended to reduce any background noise and cancel out the effects of the Earth’s rotation, Hartman said. “We were conducting a 24-hour test to calibrate the unit and were not really expecting to see any signs of vibration. When we processed the data a couple days later, we didn’t see the flatline performance we expected. Instead, there were all kinds of noises and when we checked the timestamp, it lined up perfectly with the timing of the 7.9 earthquake that hit Alaska on January 23.”

Even so, don’t look for U.S. Geological Survey scientists to begin using Honeywell accelerometers to detect and measure earthquakes anytime soon. “Our expertise is in measuring minute motion and vibration on moving platforms – like aircraft and spacecraft,” Hartman said. “Other methods of detecting and measuring earthquakes are proven and readily available, so we’ll probably stick to what we do best.”

Honeywell pioneered the use of accelerometers for navigation and has produced more than three million accelerometers since 2001. Flexibility is a Honeywell calling card and the company produces a wide variety of accelerometers with different specifications, levels of performance and price points to meet the specific needs of aerospace and industrial customers.

Honeywell accelerometers are known for being extremely robust and durable so they can deliver accurate acceleration data under the toughest conditions imaginable, including extreme temperatures and high vibration levels. 

For more information or to speak to one of our technical experts like Ron, please click here.  

Jeremy Dingman
Director, Customer Marketing

Jeremy Dingman is the Director of Product Marketing and has been with Honeywell since 2015.


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