Ways to Make Erupting Volcanoes Models

Written by grahame turner
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Ways to Make Erupting Volcanoes Models
Erupting volcanoes are common science fair experiments. (Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

The erupting volcano is a science fair project kids have been doing for years, and for good reason -- it's an experiment which shows off not only a chemical reaction, but also shows how lava would flow down a mountain if a volcano erupts. You can demonstrate this a few different ways.

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Volcano Base

The first step is to build the actual model. You can start with a plastic tube, empty water bottle or a metal container to start the reaction. Make the body of the model of clay or balled up newspaper. If you use modelling clay, you can paint right onto the dried clay, but you need to cover newspaper in tinfoil or paper mache. When you cover the model, don't cover the top of the bottle or tube.

Lava Materials

The material you use to make the reaction chamber inside the volcano can impact the type of magma you make. Many experiments use a mixture of vinegar and food colouring inside, mixed with a little soap and water. When you add a small amount of baking soda to this mixture it foams up rapidly and looks a little like lava. If you have access to chemical supply catalogues, you could make a much more authentic -- and dangerous -- version using ammonium dichromate and a Bunsen burner.

Calderas and Craters

Sometimes a volcano expands rapidly but doesn't quite explode. This causes what is called a caldera, and after this collapses it forms a volcanic crater. Inflate a balloon and clamp the bottom. Push this through a small hole in the bottom of a cardboard box, then cover the entire balloon in flour. Sculpt the flour into the shape of a volcano. The balloon simulates a gaseous build-up. Release the clamp to simulate that gas escaping, and the flour will form the crater.

Electronic Volcano

There are some noted similarities between an electric circuit and a volcano. According to a volcanologist Bob Decker, the way electricity is stored in a capacitor is similar to the build-up of magma beneath a volcano. Wire one terminal of a resistor to both a neon bulb and a capacitor. This configuration is called "in parallel." Attach the other terminal on the resistor to a battery. Join the unattached end of the battery to the bulb and capacitor. This creates a closed circuit, and when the volcano "erupts" the bulb will light up.

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