Captured Lightning Sculptures (Lichtenberg figures) are branching patterns that are created on the interior of acrylic by high voltage electrical discharges. The very first Lichtenberg figures were two-dimensional patterns formed in dust that settled on electrically-charged resin plates in the lab of Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799).
The principles involved in creating Lichtenberg figures are fundamental to the operation of modern copying machines and laser printers, and their study was the foundation of modern plasma physics. Today Stoneridge Engineering uses modern polymers and electron beam accelerators to create stunning 3D Lichtenberg figures, so called Captured Lightning sculptures.
Measuring 5cm with a depth of 2cm, each sculpture is made in the USA and partnered with a multi-coloured LED light base with UK plug.
Using polished clear acrylic, a particle accelerator generates a beam of high-speed electrons which are accelerated to 99% of the speed of light - during which a large amount of energy is generated. The acrylic is then placed in the path of the electron beam, “irradiating” them. As they emerge from the accelerator, the electrons travel through 22 inches of air before reaching the top surface of the acrylic specimens. The energetic electrons don’t stop immediately - instead, they rapidly slow down as they collide with acrylic molecules, finally coming to rest under the surface.
You can read more about the process of making Captured Lightning sculptures and the history behind them here.