Canterbury University scientists create lava after melting volcanic rock

For the first time in six million years lava is flowing in Canterbury, but there's no risk to humans or houses. 

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A group from Canterbury University are turning volcanic rock back into liquid form via a bronze furnace. Source: 1 NEWS

Canterbury University scientists are using a high-temperature furnace to turn volcanic rock back into liquid form, to help predict what might happen in an eruption.

The scientists place crushed volcanic rock into an oven and heat it for several hours at 1350 degrees Celsius before removing it when it melts.

Volcanologist Ben Kennedy is one of several scientists who will use Canterbury University's lava laboratory to model the real thing.

“I discovered this furnace existed in Canterbury and i got very excited because it was a bit of a dream that we could melt rocks,” Mr Kennedy said.

“The idea is we can then apply this to filming out the window of a helicopter - there's a big lava channel heading down the streets of Auckland - and then learning more about the properties of the lava. How it moves, where it will go, and at what speed, measuring the viscosity, or level of stickiness."

Up until now, scientists here have relied on golden syrup as a lava substitute.

“It gets everywhere, on the floor, the walls, your shoes down to the office the computer desk. I've had it on the microscopes,” masters student Dale Cusack said.

The one advantage of syrup, though, is there's no need to suit up.

“It's really hot, it burns through the overalls,” Mr Cusack said.

Scientists from Hawaii are also involved, in the wake of this year's unprecedented three-month-long eruption of Kilauea and lava flows that slowly devoured whole suburbs.

The furnace has been used by fine arts students to melt bronze for statues.

They're now interested in using the leftover lava to create art pieces, too.