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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

lava

(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

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 is the assistant managing editor and was previously a senior writer for Live Science. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Wired.com and other outlets. She holds a master's in bioengineering from the University of Washington, a graduate certificate in science writing from UC Santa Cruz and a bachelor's in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. Tia was part of a team at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that published the Empty Cradles series on preterm births, which won multiple awards, including the 2012 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.