This project will investigate the feasibility of installing fiber optic cable directly on the ground surface of Arctic tundra. For isolated northern communities lacking road beds or power line routes to the outside world, standard cable burial techniques are not cost-effective. Installing fiber optic cable directly on the ground surface without burial in extreme northern climates poses several engineering and environmental issues that must be investigated, including wild fire, animals, vegetation impact, thermal strain, river ice, off-road vehicle traffic, and lightning. The overall objective is to determine whether this installation technique is feasible by addressing these issues with field and laboratory tests. The project has six primary goals. (1) Perform a literature survey of past experience in similar installations with electric power cable and pipelines. (2) Perform industry standard characterization measurements of the fiber optic cable performance using an optical time domain reflectometer and optical spectrum analyzer. (3) Measure and record any signs of deterioration and/or damage to the cable exterior armor due to the harsh Arctic environment. (4) Observe and assess the environmental impact of the surface laid cable on the tundra vegetation. (5) Design and test a suitable anchoring system for stream and river crossings that can withstand ice rafting during spring melt. (6) Document and assess the impact of wild animals on the cable, and any reciprocal hazards the cable may pose to the wildlife. At the end of the two-year project, a recommendation as to the feasibility of this installation technique will be made based on a synthesis of all measurement data and observations. A detailed report on the field and laboratory tests, results, and conclusions will be written. The broader impact of this project is in helping to find a cost-effective way to bring high speed broadband communication to rural Alaska, and to remote research stations. If this project demonstrates that fiber optic communication can be brought to rural high northern Alaska, it will make a significant contribution to helping rural communities participate in the broader community, national forums, and the global economy.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Polar Programs (PLR)
Standard Grant (Standard)
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Program Officer
Erica L. Key
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University of Alaska Fairbanks Campus
United States
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