The MesoSeis project constitutes an attempt to valorize developments from fundamental science in an industrial application. In this case, the idea was to use a highly sensitive micro-machined structure, which had originally been designed to detect hypothetical dark energy forces, as a seismic vibration sensor. For this purpose we needed compact, sensitive, but yet low-power evaluation electronics that would fit together with the mechanical parts into the device’s housing. The requirements turned out to be rather challenging, as on the one hand, heating was to be avoided at all cost but on the other hand, extremely low noise need to be achieved. For such a project, a partner was required that is both competent and available, so that development and testing of electronic and mechanical parts could go hand-in-hand without much delay. The in-house electronic workshop of the VU proved to be just that partner. From the start, problems and solutions were evaluated by the workshop together with the involved scientists, creating an interactive work environment in which the design process could be handled effectively and fast.
In the end, the finalized design fulfilled almost all requirements. A good tradeoff was found within the given financial and temporal framework. The achieved sensitivity is at the same level as costly reference geophones, but at a comparably lower price. The prototype development has thus been a success that would have probably been difficult to achieve with an external partner. Being able to just stop by at any time to discuss problems is an invaluable asset that would have a high price when working with industrial parties. For this reason, the workshop at the VU has a unique position that allows to realize complex projects effectively and efficiently.
Above: Seismic background at the location of the VU measured with an industry-standard reference geophone (Sercel L4C) and with the MesoSeis sensor. As a comparison, the global high (NHNM) and low (NLNM) seismic background models are given.