Volcanic eruptions are generally regarded as a natural phenomenon best experienced from a distance. But a group of designers from China think they can tap into and harness a volcano's energy to produce electricity for nearby cities while protecting residents from the dangerous eruptions. Jing Hao, Zhanou Zhang, Xingyue Chen, Jiangyue Han, and Shuo Zhou received an Honorable Mention in the 2013 eVolo Skyscraper Competition for their VolcanElectric Mask, which proposes covering a volcano in a giant shield. The megalithic structure includes a co-generation plant to create electricity from volcanic heat, research facilities and even tourist attractions for when the volcano isn't set to explode.
VolcanElectric Mask is a design that could harness the untapped power of volcanoes to generate electricity and minimize damage and destruction from eruptions. Designed by Jing Hao, Zhanou Zhang, Xingyue Chen, Jiangyue Han, and Shuo Zhou from China, the proposal calls for a giant dome to cover the volcano, which works as a shield to prevent ash or tephra from choking up the air. This proposal for their prototype was designed for the Popocatepetl Volcano, which is 70 km from Mexico City and is one of the ten most active volcanoes in the developed world. With 500,000 people living within 10 to 30 km from its crater, the volcano has the potential to cause considerable damage, but also to provide many with a source of renewable power.
The dome was inspired by the way the body works and takes specific design cues from the nervous system as well as skin. Hanging inside the dome are a series of screw-like tentacles that burrow into the volcano to monitor temperatures, predict eruptions and absorb CO2, which is then used to create dry ice. When the volcano is calm, the tentacles work to generate electricity from steam, which is created when collected rain water comes into contact with lava. During this period of calm, the area is open to tourists for hiking, sight seeing and other exhibitions.
When an eruption is expected, the dome closes down in order to contain the tephra and lava and keep it from affecting nearby towns. Dry ice is expelled to protect the tentacles from damage and cool the lava. After the eruption is over the tephra is collected by the dome and shipped off for use in industrial processes. Research facilities within the dome provide a close up view of the volcano in action and help scientists improve prediction and energy generation through geothermal and volcanic activity.