Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Simulating Volcano Eruptions, One Blast at a Time

A voice carried across the treeless plateau: "Fire in the hole! The range is now active."

Two dozen people fell silent before a muffled blast sent a geyser-like shower of crushed gravel, limestone and asphalt roughly 50 feet in the air. Moments later, standing at the blast site, University at Buffalo geology professor Greg Valentine gave an impromptu assessment.

"That was great. It was exactly what we expected," said Valentine, PhD, director of UB's Center for Geohazards Studies.

The experiment, a rare large-scale attempt to simulate volcanic eruptions, is drawing international attention because it will provide much-needed insight into one of Earth's most powerful and mysterious natural disasters. If that wasn't enough, it may help mining companies find diamonds.

A short video of the experimental blast is available here:

When most people think of volcanoes, images of exploding mountain tops come to mind. There is another type of volcano, however, called a maar. They feature large craters, often topped by a pool of water, near mountain ranges. Maars range from a few hundred feet to more than a mile across.

The UB-funded experiment, which took place on land owned by Cheektowaga-based Calspan Corp., focused on maars. It unfolded over several days in July. The idea, according to Valentine, was not to determine how or when eruptions will occur, but rather to figure out what happens during and after an eruption.

Do subsequent eruptions cause the crater to expand? Will the volcano spew enough ash to affect air travel, as did the 2010 volcanic eruption in Iceland?

To help answer those questions, Valentine and researchers built three test beds, each 12-feet-by-12-feet square, and packed them with gravel, limestone and asphalt, 3 to 3-1/2 feet deep. Explosives roughly as powerful as a grenade were placed in post holes and detonated.

Because volcanic eruptions are naturally occurring, each with their own distinct features, it isn't possible to exactly replicate one, Valentine said. But the test beds are an accurate barometer to base conclusions on because researchers can control the strength of the blast, he said.

The experiment drew the attention of Jacopo Taddeucci, PhD, a volcanologist at the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Rome, Italy. He flew into Buffalo for the occasion to use high-speed cameras to record the explosions.

"Large-scale experiments like this are quite rare," he said in between blasts.

It also piqued the interest of Manoranjan Majii, PhD, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at UB. Majii used the experiment to test software he developed that provides near instantaneous 3-D imagery of Earth's surface, including craters.

While it's too early to draw conclusions, the experiment could provide insight into the location of diamonds. The valuable gemstone is brought close to Earth's surface by the funnel-shaped mass of magma and broken rock that form under volcanoes, Valentine said.

He will spend the next few months analyzing results of the experiment before reporting his findings in a yet-to-be determined academic journal. For the time being though, Valentine said he is happy with the results.

"I've learned more today, without analyzing this entirely, as I would if I spent an entire year reading technical papers."

Cory Nealon | Newswise Science News
Further information:

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht UCI and NASA document accelerated glacier melting in West Antarctica
26.10.2016 | University of California - Irvine

nachricht Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere
25.10.2016 | American Geophysical Union

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Advanced analysis of brain structure shape may track progression to Alzheimer's disease

26.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

3-D-printed structures shrink when heated

26.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>