Experimental aggregation of volcanic ash: the role of liquid bonding
Thursday, 17 December 2015: 17:45
306 (Moscone South)
Explosive volcanic eruptions may release vast quantities of ash. Because of its size, it has the greatest dispersal potential and can be distributed globally. Ash may pose severe risks for 1) air traffic, 2) human and animal health, 3) agriculture and 4) infrastructure. Such ash particles can however cluster and form ash aggregates that range in size from millimeters to centimeters. During their growth, weight and aerodynamic properties change. This leads to significantly changed transport and settling behavior. The physico-chemical processes involved in aggregation are quantitatively poorly constrained. We have performed laboratory ash aggregation experiments using the ProCell Lab System® of Glatt Ingenieurtechnik GmbH. Solid particles are set into motion in a fluidized bed over a range of well-controlled boundary conditions (e.g., air flow rate, gas temperature, humidity, liquid composition). In this manner we simulate the variable gas-particle flow conditions expected in eruption plumes and pyroclastic density currents. We have used 1) soda-lime glass beads as an analogue material and 2) natural volcanic ash from Laacher See Volcano (Germany). In order to influence form, size, stability and the production rate of aggregates, a range of experimental conditions (e.g., particle concentration, degree of turbulence, temperature and moisture in the process chamber and the composition of the liquid phase) have been employed. We have successfully reproduced several features of natural ash aggregates, including round, internally structured ash pellets up to 3 mm in diameter. These experimental results help to constrain the boundary conditions required for the generation of spherical, internally-structured ash aggregates that survive deposition and are preserved in the volcanological record. These results should also serve as input parameters for models of ash transport and ash mass distribution.