Artificial lava

Saturday, September 01, 2012


The Syracuse University Lava Project is a collaboration between an artist and a geologist to experiment with, and create sculptures from, man-made lava. Bob Wysocki is the artist (there are more videos at his link) and the geologist is Jeff Karson. The above video is lava being poured onto ice. I wonder what those lava bubbles that form along the edge look like when it cools?

The two have created a furnace that can melt basalt to create artificial lava. They then pour the lava in a parking lot for demonstrations, research purposes and to create sculptures. As Wysocki reports in one of his latest videos:
This short pour of 200lbs of lava was heated/fueled by coke, compressed air, and a little oxygen. This is a major development toward the goal of creating a geomorphologically accurate lava field. By switching from the gas-fired to coke-fired furnaces the cost of the project as a whole dropped 60%, now its feasible and I've solved the problem of the intermittent pours from the gas-fired furnace. By using the coke-fired furnace to produce lava, a continuous flow of lava is created; only ceasing if not recharged. It's a volcano or at least a volcanic vent. The coke-fired furnaces I've started to build will accommodate greater lava/basalt/coke loads, by a factor of 4. Stay tuned, I'll have a working model of a very large furnace (3 tons+ of lava an hour) up and running by November.

Three tons an hour? That's one heck of a furnace.

If you're interested in reading further about it, the website Earth has a good article about the project, Do–it–yourself lava flows: Science, art and education in the Syracuse University Lava Project, that gives details about the Lava Project and has pictures of some of the flows, one of the furnaces they've used, as well as the picture to the left  -- which I swiped from the article -- of kids roasting marshmallows over a lava flow in the snow.


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