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Photos: Geologists Home-Brew Lava

Home-brew lava

homebrew lava making

(Image credit: Douglas Levere)

Scientists are creating their own "home-brew" lava and pouring it at a test station to understand how water interacts with hot, molten rock.

Heating the rock

lava rocks cooled

(Image credit: Charlotte Hsu)

The experiment starts with pieces of basaltic rock, shown here. Such rock can have explosive reactions when it interacts with water, but in other situations, water and lava cause no noticeable effects. Scientists want to understand why that is.

Heating up the rock


(Image credit: Douglas Levere)

The rock is then heated up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,371 degrees Celsius) and turned into molten lava.

Pouring the lava


(Image credit: Douglas Levere)

The lava is then poured into a metal tube that mimics the subterranean channels through which lava feeds underneath volcanoes. From there, the team plans to add water and use an array of sophisticated sensors to understand exactly what happens.

Cleaning the machine

cleaning lava from a furnace

(Image credit: Charlotte Hsu)

Here, geology student Andrew Harp chips residue from the furnace.

Testing water reaction

cleaning lava from furnace

(Image credit: Charlotte Hsu)

Here, experiment lead Ingo Sonder, a geologist at the University at Buffalo chips away rock residue on the furnace that is used to make the lava.

Tia Ghose
Tia has interned at Science News,, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and has written for the Center for Investigative Reporting, Scientific American, and ScienceNow. She has a master's degree in bioengineering from the University of Washington and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California Santa Cruz.