The University of Syracuse has been making molten lava -- and we're not talking the white vinegar dyed with red and yellow food coloring with a dash of baking soda variety either.
The university's "lava project" has been creating its own honest to goodness lava for use in experiments and observational studies. Not to be wasteful, the lava as it cools is also used by the university in art.
According to the research project's website, the effort is a collaboration between the art department's sculptor Bob Wysocki and earth sciences geologist Jeff Karson:
The goals of the project include scientific experiments, artistic creations, education, and outreach to the Syracuse University and City communities. Basaltic lava, similar to that found on the seafloor and erupted from volcanoes in Hawaii and Iceland, is melted and poured to produce natural-scale lava flows. The project supports a wide variety of scientific experiments engaging faculty and students at SU and volcanologists from other institutions. The natural beauty and particular properties of the lava are the basis for sculpture projects.
In addition to being used for actual research and art, the university conducts demonstrations to wow students and the public at large with the 2,200 degrees F mass of goo.
Prepare to be amazed yourself. The Wysocki uploaded a video on Vimeo of the university's "short pour of 200lbs of lava." Check it out:
Wysocki writes in the description that the lava was generated from heated/fueled by coke, compressed air, and a little oxygen, which he says is a big step toward their goal of creating a geomorphologically accurate lava field. The success was all in the furnace:
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.
Wysocki goes on to write that a model that could pour three tons of lava in an hour could be ready by November.
The basalt the group uses to make the lava comes from 1.1 Billion-yr-old basalt from northwest Wisconsin.
Earth Magazine, which recently featured the university's research, states that prior to this project, other attempts to recreate lava were only at a small scale.