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Lava, ash, smoke: model volcano allows better understanding of volcanic eruptions

press release published by the FZD on June 25, 2010

In order to gain a better understanding of volcanic eruptions scientists and engineers from Great Britain, Switzerland and of the research center Forschungszentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (FZD) in Germany developed a volcano model. It is presented during the Summer Science Exhibition of the British academy of sciences in London from June 25 until July 4, 2010.

There are many styles of volcanic eruptions ranging from lava flows to sustained explosions with columns of gas and ash, which have recently made the Icelandic Eyjafjallajökull volcano famous. The hazards to people and the environment vary considerably, so it is important to understand the physics of the different eruption types and why they can suddenly change.

Gases affect eruption style and intensity, but volcanologists are unable to observe eruptions from inside the volcanoes. Therefore, engineers and scientists from the universities of Nottingham (UK), Bristol (UK), and Geneva (Switzerland) as well as experts for flow visualization techniques from the company Tomoflow Ltd. (UK) and Forschungszentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (Germany) have created laboratory experiments to measure the flows within a model volcano. In addition, the scientists can determine how the flow of gases inside volcanoes are related to eruption style and sounds recorded at real erupting volcanoes.

Visitors of the Summer Science Exhibition will be able to set off syrup eruptions and see how the sounds generated from volcanoes and the shapes of gas bubbles vary with the style of the eruption. Furthermore, the visitors can observe how scientists of the FZD research center apply wire-mesh sensors in order to investigate the development and collapse of gas bubbles in the volcano chimney and at the crater opening, using a laboratory scale volcano model.

The Royal Society's Summer Science Exhibition is part of the "Festival of Science + Arts" marking the 350th anniversary of the British academy of sciences. The festival takes place at Southbank Centre in London from June 25 to July 4, 2010.

(authors: Dr. Markus Schubert / Anja Bartho)

For more information
Dr. Uwe Hampel
Institute of Safety Research at FZD
Tel.: +49 351 260 - 2772

Contact for the media
Dr. Christine Bohnet
Head of public relations
Forschungszentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (FZD)
Bautzner Landstr. 400, 01328 Dresden
Tel.: + 49 351 260 - 2450 or +49 160 969 288 56