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Summer Science Exhibition 2010

Looking deep into model volcanoes









The Royal Society, London, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG


Lava fountain on Heimaey island, Iceland, 1973. Photo by Steve Sparks.

Engineers and geologists from five institutions are working together to better understand volcanic eruptions.

There are many styles of volcanic eruptions ranging from lava flows to sustained explosions with columns of gas and ash reaching the stratosphere. The hazards to people and the environment vary considerably, so it is important to understand the physics of 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 volcano. Engineers and scientists have created laboratory experiments to measure flow within a model volcano to determine how the flow of gases inside are related to eruption style and sounds recorded at real erupting volcanoes. The researchers are using electric tomography to measure bubbles produced in the gas to create a practical volcano monitoring tool.

“Our research is allowing us to better understand volcanoes to help predict and interpret changes in the intensity of an eruption by monitoring the sounds emitted by volcanoes,” says Professor Barry Azzopardi from the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at the University of Nottingham.

Visitors to the exhibit will be able to set off syrup eruptions and see how the shapes of bubbles and the sounds generated from volcanoes vary with the style of the eruption. There is also an opportunity to look at bubbles in volcanic rocks, learn how engineers “see” bubbles inside pipes, and listen to recordings of real volcanic eruptions.

Exhibited by University of Nottingham; University of Bristol; University of Geneva, Switzerland; Tomoflow Ltd;Forschungzentrum Dresden-Rossendorf, Germany.

See all exhibits from 2010

Looking deep into model volcanoes The Royal Society, London 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK