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"Captured Lightning" Lichtenberg Figure

A "captured lightning" Lichtenberg figure in a specimen of acrylic plastic

A charged 4 inch x 12 inch x inch specimen of acrylic plastic being discharged to form a "captured lightning" Lichtenberg figure. A neutral density filter was used to prevent the camera from being over exposed by the brilliant flash. A particle accelerator was used to charge up the interior of the specimen to over 1.7 million volts. By poking the edge with a grounded point, the trapped charge was suddenly released. Although the electrical discharge lasts for less than 250 billionths of a second, the miniature lightning-like discharges leave behind permanent branching chains of tubes and fractures inside the acrylic, effectively forming a "fossil" of the discharge. The fractal pattern is similar to many other branching forms in nature, such as animal circulatory systems, branching tree limbs, and rivers and their tributaries.

This captured lightning Lichtenberg figure was created at Stoneridge Engineering, owned by Bert Hickman. Hickman creates sculptures of these captured lightning, fully discharged and completely safe. The sculptures combine the technologies of particle beams and polymer physics with the natural beauty of fractals to create unique creations of scientific art. To learn more about these Lichtenberg figures, including movies showing how they're made, visit the Teslamania website Here. (Date of Image: December 2007)

Credit: Bert Hickman, Stoneridge Engineering
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