The continual flow of lava from Kilauea Volcano has inspired students finding new ways to deal with lava along with scientists and members of the community. Some of the projects they are working on include a vog air scrubber, a heat resistant bridge, and heat resistant fabrics so cars can drive over lava that is still cooling.
Vog is volcanic smog, which makes air difficult to breathe. Using parts bought over the counter at a hardware store, students built an air scrubber that neutralizes the acid using a compound similar to baking soda. Ace Hardware is selling the parts for $100, and a fully assembled scrubber for $150, donating $50 to the Hawaii Academy of Arts and Science STEM program.
Other ideas include a water cooled bridge over still hot roadways which would allow for cars to drive with the heat dissipated. They are also working on heat resistant fabrics, improving the ones currently in use that protect power poles and street lights.
“We teach giving back,” said Eric Clause, Hawaii Academy of Arts and Science’s STEM coordinator. “I also teach the kids, ‘You can work the problem — or you can let the problem work you.'”
The volcano eruption which started last summer is being met today with technology that was unavailable in the 1990s, when it last erupted. Thanks to GPS technology, lava flows can be monitored more closely. It has become increasingly important to protect power sources, roadways, and plan for safe evacuations. Developing heat resistant and heat dissipating materials is an important part of this process.