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I have a civilization that lives near an active volcano. For battle, they use the lava to their advantage, and one of their projectile weapons is a small sphere with lava inside. When thrown, it explodes on impact, splattering the lava on the surrounding area (as well as any people in the vicinity).

My question is, is there an actual material or method that could hold this lava long enough without burning the person holding it, keep the lava liquid for as long as possible, and shatters/explodes on impact? (Aerogel comes to mind, being a great insulator, but I’m not sure if it can be made into a sphere. Also I’m not sure if it can actually hold lava. The sphere is so it’s easier to carry/hold/throw.)

(The sphere does not have to last too long, as it’s one of those weapons that are quickly made then used soon after. However, if it does last a while, that is even better).

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    $\begingroup$ I have a feeling there is an answer in trapping water inside of lava somehow. Perhaps dipping a water-filled clay pot in lava, then flinging it? As the water inside superheats, it will explode. Or perhaps a sealed blob of lava filled with water, then heated until it is almost ready to burst, then thrown. More of a fragmentation effect, but extremely hot AND using vulcanism. Guessing it might be prone to spontaneous explosions. Cool video on water and lava: youtube.com/watch?v=lDxOhfiFsuc $\endgroup$ – DWKraus Sep 24 '20 at 21:42
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There are different kinds of lava, with a range of temperatures usually around 700 to 1,200 Celsius (1,292 to 2,192 fahrenheit).

So any material that can stay solid up to and above those temperatures could work, depending on your lava. Fused quartz glass, and many alloys of/with brass, bronze, copper and gold could be use for lava in the colder range of temperatures where it can exist. Cast iron and steel carbon can hold hotter lava, as well as tungstenium.

...without burning the person holding it...

Since all the containers I can think of are metals, my advice would be: use a metallic shell as both a container for lava and ammo for some kind of cannon or catapult, and never touch it directly. Use some tool to fill in the lava. A scoop with a very long handle would do.

...keep the lava liquid for as long as possible...

I could not find the specific heat of lava, but I found this from the University of Oregon. Basically when exposed to air the surface of lava cools very quickly, forming a crust that insulates the interior. The lava within can take months to cool. I imagine a small, cannonball sized sample could last minutes to hours with a liquid interior.

...shatters/explodes on impact?

Design an iron shell that opens as it flies. When the shot hits, the lava crust breaks and spreads the fires of volcanic passion all around it.

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    $\begingroup$ if the lava is several feet thick it will take months to cool, if it is the size of a softball it will be solid within hours of being heated. $\endgroup$ – John Sep 24 '20 at 22:10
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A ceramic thermos can do the job.

However, if you want it to be brittle, you have to deal with consequences.

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Carbon foam made of nanostructures can hold its own against heat. You can refer to a material called Starlite, and check out https://www.youtube.com/user/Nighthawkinlight , who sort of rediscovered the formula. Starlite on getting burned generates a layer of carbon nanostructures at the interface, protecting the rest of the material beneath. So all you need is a sphere with sufficient thickness and hardness to be handheld and yet break on impact.

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