Pyroclastic Flow Effects of Miniature Volcano Project
How to Make a Model Volcano Pyroclastic Flow
Most people have seen model volcanoes that use baking soda and vinegar to make a bubbly lava. While these are fun, they are not a very good replica of a violent volcanic explosion. To replicate a pyroclastic event, you will need to mix a fuel that you can burn, set it into your volcano, and ignite it in a safe and responsible way.
Mixing the Reactants
Make a reaction chamber.Use a metal soup can to make a reaction chamber. Peel all of the labeling off of the can so that it doesn’t catch on fire. Open the can at the top, empty out any soup, and clean the can.
Put sugar in the chamber.Sugar will be the fuel source for your reaction. It will burn, producing heat and smoke, which is an incomplete combustion reaction. In a complete combustion reaction, the sugar would produce carbon dioxide and water. Fill one third of the chamber with sugar to leave room for other reactants.
Mix saltpeter into the chamber.Saltpeter, also known as potassium nitrate, serves as a good oxidizer. This means it helps enable the sugar to burn faster, producing a more realistic pyroclastic model. You can use different ratios of potassium nitrate to sugar for different results. Start with a 1:1 mixture by adding the same amount of potassium nitrate as you did sugar. Mix the reactants thoroughly, but do not heat them.
- You can change the ratio to have more or less potassium nitrate and see which explosions you prefer. More potassium nitrate will oxidize the sugar faster, resulting in in a faster reaction. Less potassium nitrate will result in a slower reaction.
- Your fuel is now live and can be ignited. Keep it away from any heat source, flame, or spark.
- You can purchase saltpeter at most local hardware stores or online.
Configuring the Volcano
Place the reaction chamber inside the volcano.If you have made a model volcano, you can place the can inside the opening of the volcano. Another option is to build a volcano around the soup can. Either way, be absolutely sure that your volcano is not made with any flammable materials. The reaction gets very hot.
Install a model rocket ignitor.You can get a model rocket ignitor at a hobby store like Hobby Lobby. You can also order them online. This ignitor will allow you to set off the reaction from a safe distance using a small electrical current. Simply put the end of the ignitor into fuel mixture, and make sure that the end of the ignitor is buried into the fuel mixture.
- If you want to hide the ignitor leads, you can cut two small holes in the side of the can to feed the leads through, but this is not necessary.
Add ash or soot to the chamber.Fill any remaining chamber space with ash or soot. While this does nothing for the chemical reaction, it will be thrown into the air. This will make your model resemble a pyroclastic event more accurately.
Erupting the Volcano
Take the volcano to a safe place.This experiment can be very dangerous if it is done in the wrong place. If you do this inside, you are likely to burn down the building. Take the volcano to an open place outside. Get away from any buildings, trees or power lines.
Run leads from the ignitor.The ignitor will have two leads coming off of it. Connect a piece of stereo wire to each lead. Each length of wire should be at least 25 feet (8 1/3 meters) long to keep you a safe distance from the volcano.
Touch the leads to a nine volt battery.Touch one lead to the positive end of a nine volt battery and another lead to negative side. It doesn’t matter which lead touches which end of the battery. This will send current to the ignitor and ignite the fuel. The resulting explosion will send heat, smoke, and ash up into the air in true volcanic style.
QuestionWhere can I find a 9 volt battery?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou can buy a 9 V battery at your school merchandise store or at any local hardware store. The shape of this kind of battery is rectangle with the ends only on one side.Thanks!
- Use basic electronics to make a control switch or detonation box in place of touching the leads to a battery.
- Grind up the saltpeter so it reacts more readily.
- The volcano will be hot after the eruption. Handle it with care.
- Stand at least 25 feet (7.6 m). away to avoid flying particles.
- This is a fire hazard. You should only do this outside in an open space.
Video: How to make a volcano with lava coming out (science project)
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