Generally, volcanic eruptions are dangerous occurrences that people do well to steer clear off. However, a group of Chinese designers have proposed a structure that would harness the volcano’s energy to be used for electricity production, while also protecting the environs from the dangerous products of eruption including lava and tephra.
The eVolo Skyscraper Competition for 2013 gave this group of designers, made up of Zhanou Zhang, Jing Hao, Xingyue Chen, Shuo Zhou and Jiangyue Han, an Honourable Mention for their VolcanElectric Mask design.
The structure would form a giant shield over a volcano and would be made up of a plant to produce electricity from the volcanic heat as well as house research facilities and provide tourist attractions when the volcano is dormant.
This idea could then be a way to tap the as-yet-untouched volcanic power so as to produce electricity and also protect neighbouring towns and cities from the danger of an eruption. The design prototype used the Popocatepetl Volcano, one of the top ten most active volcanoes, located some 70 km outside Mexico City.
With about 500,000 people living within 30 km of the volcano, the potential to cause damage in the event of an eruption is huge, but the energy release could also be a creditable source of sustainable energy.
Taking inspiration from the workings of the human body, including the skin and the nervous system, the VolcanElectric Mask would have a dome with tentacle-like structures descending into the volcano for monitoring temperatures, absorbing CO2 to form dry ice, and for predicting eruptions.
Electricity would be produced from steam which wold be formed when rain falls on the lava during dormancy. This would also be the time suited for tourist attractions around the volcano.
When an eruption is imminent, however, the structure would be closed to protect the environs from the lava and tephra while the tentacle-like structures would also be protected by the pre-produced dry ice. The tephra would afterward be carted off to factories to be put to good use. Research laboratories housed within the dome wold enable scientists to observe in detail the eruption process to better enable prediction of eruptions as well as find ways to produce geothermal energy from volcanoes.