While we normally see piezo elements being used to output audio, [Veedo] thought that they could be used in a more useful manner. He bought way too many piezo film tabs and decided to use them to build a makeshift seismic sensor.
The piezo tabs came with weights attached at one end, though while testing them, he found that they more or less only detected vibrations with frequencies in the KHz range. Since earthquakes tend to produce vibrations in the 30-80 Hz range, he had to tweak his setup to detect the proper frequencies. To do this, he attached a weight made of a screw and washers, checking the output signals on his oscilloscope until the dominant sensed frequencies were in the range of 40 Hz.
The sensor was attached to a breadboard, then wired through a charge amp to create a small AC signal, which floats on 2.5Vdc. The bottom half of the wave is chopped off with a diode, after which it is fed into an Arduino Mega. The seismic data is then pushed up to his Pachube account for storage, though he can view the feeds locally via the a web server programmed into the Arduino.
Weâ€™re not sure how much advanced notice this sort of setup would give you in the event of an earthquake, but it seems like a fun project to build either way.