RAFAEL project: radioactive and chemical sensors development
Natural disasters, both on a global and local scale, have a great influence on the national economy and social development; therefore, the efforts of the scientific community are oriented towards their understanding and forecasting, so as to be able to evaluate the risk probability of a catastrophic event. The RAFAEL project aims at the development of sensors capable of being able to evaluate the variations, through continuous and long-term monitoring, of the precursor parameters of a seismic event. These parameters include changes in water level, variability in terms of temperature and conductivity, and variation of the concentration in Rn and CO2 release from both groundwater and soil. Radon and CO2 have been chosen as target elements for the definition of the new prototype technology. The implementation phase of this technique involved all the partners involved into the project: ENEA, OGS, University of Ferrara and the two private companies NUVAP and U-Series.
The challenge was to design reliable instrumentation that can be placed in outdoor environments for continuous monitoring and that does not require the intervention of an operator for data acquisition. The prototype was then tested at the water - air interface present in a well selected for the monitoring campaign. The results showed a large variation of the δ13C and δ18O peaks as expected. Currently seismic hazard is treated with a probabilistic approach; therefore, seismic hazard maps are based on the probability that an earthquake of a certain magnitude will occur during a time window in a particular area (assuming that the annual rate is relatively constant). It is hoped that research projects such as the RAFAEL Project, oriented towards earthquake prediction, will allow for a better knowledge of future seismic activity based on the measurement of those chemical-physical parameters considered pre-seismic signals and the understanding of the physical laws that regulate their variation.