back to article Super-tough wireless sensors 'to be dropped into volcanoes'

Topflight engineers based in Newcastle have hit upon a radical plan for warning of volcanic eruptions. They intend to build a heatproof sensor unit which can be dropped into a volcano's caldera and wirelessly transmit data to monitoring stations despite being possibly immersed in molten rock. "At the moment we have no way of …


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  1. Scott Broukell

    Shouldn't ...

    they be Fire-Wire !

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Major flaw: readings may be hampered by thetans

    According to Scientology doctrine, that fine author L Ron Hubbard says loads of bad thetans (or something) have been dropped in there.

    PS - You need to fork over like £100k to be privvy to that bit of info (OT3), so please send your cheques to the "Church"

    From Wikipedia:


    Xenu (pronounced /ˈziːnuː/[1][2][3]), also Xemu, was, according to the founder of Scientology and science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, the dictator of the "Galactic Confederacy" who, 75 million years ago, brought billions[4][5] of his people to Earth in a DC-8-like spacecraft, stacked them around volcanoes and killed them using hydrogen bombs. Official Scientology dogma holds that the essences of these many people remained, and that they form around people in modern times, causing them spiritual harm.[1][6] Members of the Church of Scientology widely deny or try to hide the Xenu story.[7][8]"


    1. Peter Simpson 1
      IT Angle

      Not to be confused with the homonym...



  3. loopy lou
    Thumb Up


    Now there's the answer to those noisy fans.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Hot stuff

    Paris because, well, she's hot as well.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    the molton lava may shield the RF radiation

    one serious problem will be that RF from the sensor may not escape through the molton wall

    1. Havin_it

      Molton Lava?

      I hope this means there is also Brown Lava available, those two go together like soap and facial scrub...

      Thanks, mine's the one stuffed with hotel freebies.

  6. Kubla Cant

    Another serious problem

    ...may be that you drop the sensor into the caldera only to find that it comes back out again.

    IANAV (I am not a vulcanologist), but my impression is that full-scale eruptions are often preceded by a fairly long period in which stuff flows or blows out.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      heavy molten titles

      Fit them with an altometer and/or accelerometer?

      "wow, Bob, it's really moving! Bob? Bob?!"

      *clatter of doors and rattle of car engine starting*

  7. druck Silver badge

    Bring back the fast breader

    One of the problems with fast breeder nuclear reactors was the difficulty of instrumenting the primary cooling system, which consisted of liquid sodium (boiling point 883C), so this research sounds idea.

    Fast breeder reactors are able to turn the limited stocks of naturally occurring uranium in to vastly more nuclear fuel, which can be used in more conventional reactors. Demand for nuclear power is increasing rapidly to produce CO2 free electricity, and without this technology uranium supplies will limit its potential.

    This is an area in which Britain had lead the world, but we've now abandoned, and we are even set to demolish the landmark dome of the pioneering Doonray facility.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


      "One of the problems with fast breeder nuclear reactors was the difficulty of instrumenting the primary cooling system, which consisted of liquid sodium (boiling point 883C), so this research sounds idea"

      Quite true. However various non-electronic ideas were tried and bought to various states of fruition. Nuclear environments were one of the drivers for fluidic logic in all its various forms.

      However *why* you would want a fast breeder is another matter. You might like to check the world prices of uranium and the fact that Thorium is even *more* abundant (India is working on that one).

      There is also the little matter of the P word. Proliferation is a lot easier when you have to buy an extraction plant as part of the infrastructure.

  8. Swoop

    Are they using...

    ...firewall technology?

  9. Christoph
    Paris Hilton

    Other applications - Venus?

    Will this be enough to get a Venus lander to last more than a few minutes?

    1. TimeMaster T

      Short answer, no

      long answer, what caused all the Venus landers to fail was that the electronics they contained over heated and stopped working. I think the record was about ~30 minutes by one of the landers from the U.S.S.R.. It was chilled WAY down before being dropped into the atmosphere. The casing withstood the heat and pressure but once the electronics heated up, bye bye.

      Same problem with this idea, the electronics are going to cook.

  10. Cunningly Linguistic

    Could the same thing be used for...

    ...the production of a fine vindaloo?

  11. TimeMaster T

    Over heating?

    So the casing will stand up to molten rock.

    How are they going to keep the electronics inside the case from cooking?

  12. Mark McNeill

    That's canny hard like

    Next up: Newcastle University sensors dropped into the Arctic Ocean wearing a strappy top and a pair of white stilettos.

    Howay man, mine's the t-shirt with the snow on it.

  13. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    But can it survive in a really extreme environment?

    Blood boiling temperatures, near 100% humidity, fatally high levels of noise and exposure to liquid and airborne contaminants.

    IOW The dance floor of a Newcastle club on a Saturday night.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Just to be clear

      I don't actually have anything *against* the dance floors of Newcastle night clubs. I hear the Toon can be very lively.

      Arrive for the aperitifs

      Stay for the Police interrogation.

  14. Captain DaFt

    Playing with numbers

    "With an estimated 500 million people living in the shadow of a volcano this is clearly not ideal,"

    Ok, so half a billion people out of approximately 6.5 billion live too near a volcano....

    According to my dodgy math skills, that's one thirteenth of the World's population....

    I'd advise they move... Quickly!

  15. Morpho Devilpepper

    Isn't anyone else wondering...

    ...why the big-time volcano boffins are in Newcastle? I'm pretty sure there aren't many places farther from active volcanoes than Newcastle. Do they at least occasionally vacation in Iceland or Hawaii, or something?

    Aside from that...isn't molten metal (which is mixed in with molten rock) a good source of heavy duty electromagnetic interference? How close would the listening station need to be?

  16. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Electronics is just *part* of the problem

    You're looking at some kind of power storage or generation system and probably an aerial of some kind to make the most of what's likely to be a fairly small power source. The *obvious* solution to this is some kind of thermoelectric system with lots of couples (although at this temperature using thermionic systems might also be feasible and not require a temperature difference while the system works)

    BTW similar conditions apply to the field of oil borehole systems, which also operate in highly hostile environments.

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