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Küppers, Ulrich; Cimarelli, Corrado; Hess, Kai-Uwe; Taddeucci, Jacopo; Wadsworth, Fabian B.; Dingwell, Donald B. (2014): The thermal stability of Eyjafjallajökull ash versus turbine ingestion test sands. In: Journal of Applied Volcanology, Vol. 3, 4


The 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull (Iceland) and the 2011 eruptions of Grimsvötn (Iceland), Cordon Caulle (Chile) and Nabro (Ethiopia) have drastically heightened the level of awareness in the general population of how volcanic activity can affect everyday life by disrupting air travel. The ingestion of airborne volcanic matter into jet turbines may cause harm by (1) abrasion of engine parts, (2) destabilisation of the fuel/air mix and its dynamics and (3) by melting and sintering ash onto engine parts. To investigate the behaviour of volcanic ash upon reheating, we have performed experiments at ten temperature steps between 700 and 1600°C on (1) fresh volcanic ash from the final explosive phase of the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull (EYJA) eruption and (2) two standard materials used in ingestion tests in the history of turbine testing (MIL E 5007C test sand, MIL; Arizona Test Dust, ATD). We confirm expected large differences in the samples’ response to thermal treatment. We quantify the physical basis for these differences using thermogravimetry and differential scanning calorimetry. Glassy volcanic ash softens at temperatures that are considerably lower than those required for crystalline silicates to start to melt. We find that volcanic ash starts softening at temperatures as low as 600°C and that complete sintering takes place at temperatures as low as 1050°C. Accordingly, the ingestion of volcanic ash in the hot zone of turbines will rather efficiently transform the angular volcanic particles into sticky droplets with a high potential of adhering to surfaces. These experiments demonstrate both a large variability in the material properties of ash from Eyjafjallajökull volcano and a strong contrast to the behaviour of the test sands. In light of these differences, the application in volcanic crises of models of the impact of ash on operability of passenger jet turbines that have been based on test sand calibrations must be re-evaluated. We stress as well that ingestion tests should not only investigate the turbine’s response to ash concentration (g/m3) but also to ash dosage.