Scientists install miniature quake recorders in Christchurch houses - 08/09/2010

Scientists are approaching Christchurch home-owners asking if they are prepared to host a miniature seismometer in their house to record aftershocks.

During the next week they hope to install up to 200 of the earthquake sensors in a project that will collect important information about variation in the strength of ground-shaking across the city.

Information gathered by the instruments will help in calibrating engineering standards so New Zealand structures are in good shape to withstand future earthquakes.

The project is a collaboration between GNS Science, Victoria University of Wellington, and Stanford University in the United States.

It is the first time the instruments, brought here by Stanford University, have been used in New Zealand.

The sensors, called Quake-Catchers, are about the size of a cigarette packet and are connected by a USB cable to a home computer with a broadband.

When an aftershock above a certain strength occurs, they record the ground motions in three dimensions and send the information via the internet to a science data centre.

Project leader Hannah Brackley of GNS Science said the data collected would be of international significance.

"The earthquake in Canterbury is the most significant event to impact on an urban area since the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake," Dr Brackley said.

"The learning from this event, if well captured and applied across New Zealand, can help significantly to mitigate the impacts of future earthquakes."