A Lichtenberg figure, often known as a tattoo-like scar, can occasionally be left behind by an electrical discharge on any surface. The patterns generated are recognized as fractal instances. These Branching electric discharges can occasionally be seen within or outside insulating materials. They were initially identified and investigated by a German scientist, Georg Christoph Lichtenberg. At the time of its discovery, it was believed that their distinctive forms may provide light on the characteristics of positive and negative electric “fluids.”
What is a Lichtenberg figure?
When a high voltage discharge travels along or through electrically insulating materials, it produces Lichtenberg figures, which resemble branching trees (dielectrics). The initial Lichtenberg figures were really two-dimensional “dust figures,” which developed when airborne dust in a laboratory landed on the resin plates that were electrically charged.
The Lichtenberg, or “fractal,” burning method uses high-voltage electrical current to produce patterns on the wood that mimic lightning flashes. The technique has become much more well-liked among woodturners. The technique is demonstrated in a number of YouTube movies, and it’s simple to get instructions online for making Lichtenberg burners at home on a budget.
Lichtenberg figures may be made out of wood as well. The form of the finished Lichtenberg figure is influenced by the types of wood and grain patterns. The resistance of the wood’s surface is greatly reduced by coating it with an electrolytic solution. Then, a strong voltage is applied between two electrodes that have been put on the wood.
The electrodes’ current will raise the temperature of the wood’s surface to the point where the electrolyte boils and the wood burns. The surface of the wood will burn in a pattern away from the electrodes because the charred surface is weakly conductive. Every year, electrocutions cause fatalities as a result of the potentially hazardous procedure.
How was it discovered?
Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, a German physicist, discovered and initially researched the Lichtenberg figures, which bear his name. At the time of its discovery, it was believed that their distinctive forms may provide light on the characteristics of positive and negative electric “fluids.”
In order to produce high voltage static electricity by induction, Lichtenberg constructed a large electrophorus in 1777. He recorded the radial patterns produced by applying a high voltage point to the surface of an insulator and then scattering various powdered materials across it.
Lichtenberg discovered the fundamental idea of contemporary xerography when he was able to transfer and record these pictures by pressing blank objects of paper into these patterns.
Additionally, this finding served as the foundation for current plasma physics. Unlike contemporary high voltage researchers, Lichtenberg exclusively investigated two-dimensional (2D) figures; nonetheless, electrical trees in 2D and 3D are explored on and inside insulating materials nowadays.
How are these figures made nowadays?
In the process of “Lichtenberg burning,” high voltage electricity is passed between two electrodes while they are near to a piece of wood. An electrolyte (a liquid that conducts electricity) is commonly added to the wood in order to enhance the flow of electricity between the two electrodes.
As the energy travels in the direction of least resistance, it generates heat over the surface of the wood and between the electrodes, causing the wood to burn.
Ways to create a Lichtenberg figure on wood:
- Wood burning a fractal design into wood is a simple technique. This may be accomplished by driving a pair of nails into a piece of wet pine wood and then delivering 2–10 kV of voltage to them via a fractal burning kit. Another choice is to fasten pieces of wood with alligator clips. The pine is moistened to prevent burning while the power is being applied.
- Center a sharp metal point in the middle of the wood object. A nail is a sensible option. The only thing that counts is that it is an effective electrical conductor.
- Use static electricity to zap the metal item. Through the metal and over the wood insulator, electricity is conducted. How far the pattern spreads from the metal tip and how far it penetrates the wood depends on the quantity of discharge. Therefore, you probably won’t obtain as strong of a pattern as if you use a Lichtenberg machine if you shock the metal with your fingertip after shuffling over carpets.
- Sprinkle powder all over the wood object’s surface. It’ll adhere to the pattern and display the figure.
- To improve the wood’s surface conductivity, add some baking soda to the water used to wet it. The spacing between the nails and the length of the charge needs to be adjusted via experimentation.
- If the wood begins to dry out, stop using the machine and give it another spray of water. It’s okay if there is a small amount of fire. Additionally, the kind of wood you use makes a difference.
So, that was all about Lichtenberg figures. The technique has become much more popular among woodturners. The technique is demonstrated in a number of YouTube videos, and it’s simple to get instructions online for making Lichtenberg burners at home on a budget. However, this art or process of making a Lichtenberg figure can be dangerous. Therefore, you must perform this art only under the guidance of an expert. Moreover, you need to take certain precautions and keep in handy special equipment like gloves to prevent any injuries or major accidents.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (1998b, July 20). Georg Christoph Lichtenberg | Satirist, satiric wit, satiric humor. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Georg-Christoph-Lichtenberg