Syracuse Lava Project pours over 500 pounds of lava in fifth year

SU's art and earth sciences departments came together for the event that drains lava from a furnace into water.

The Syracuse University Lava Project poured into its fifth year Tuesday afternoon.

More than 500 pounds of lava were drained from the furnace into a tub of water. Art associate professor Robert Wysocki said the rocks used to make the lava are over one billion years old but once they are melted it's like they’re brand new.

“If you took the stuff we poured today, and your neighbor dated rocks, they would say you had been to a volcano in the past 2-3 weeks,” Wysocki said. “They would not be able to know it was 1 billion year old rock that was melted artificially.”

Earth science professor Jeff Karson said he is able to study volcanic activity on the bottom of the ocean because of the Lava Project.

“We would like to know what the shape of the lava structures mean about the volcanic eruptions,” Karson said. “Short of sitting on the bottom of the ocean, the only way we can do that is by creating our own.”

The lava undergoes a 400-degree cooling process between the furnace and the water. Once it's cooled, the lava hardens into a black glass that can be reused to make more lava. Using previously solidified lava takes half the energy to re-melt, Wysocki said. 

The Syracuse University Lava Project aims to expand into a bigger furnace that will be able to melt igneous rocks continuously. Wysocki will be unveiling the furnace in October in Toronto, Canada.

Lava pours take place multiple times over the semester and are open to people of all ages. Karson said people of all interests enjoy the pours for both its science and its beauty.

“There is an educational component, it’s a fantastic opportunity for students to come see real lava flow,” Karson said. “We have had kindergarten students to esteemed professors come to enjoy the lava flow and experience something that does not happen naturally in the area.”

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