4×4″ “Captured Lightning” Lichtenberg Figure Electron Tree acrylic art sculpture

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Beautiful 4 Inch Square “Captured Lightning”
(Lichtenberg Figure) Sculpture

The branching pattern inside this 4″ x 4″ x 3/4″ specimen is a “Captured Lightning” sculpture. These are technically referred to as Lichtenberg Figures, but are also referred to as Beam Trees or Electron Trees. The lightning-like discharge was once permanently captured inside the acrylic as a the usage of a process very similar to the way glassy fulgurites are formed within sandy soil by a lightning strike. Lichtenberg Figures are named in honor of Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, the 18th century physicist who first discovered them. Dr. Lichtenberg originally used high voltage discharges from electrostatic machines and finely powdered sulfur and lead oxide to create 2-dimensional dust figures on the surface of resin plates. Our modern 3-dimensional versions were created by bombarding polished specimens of clear acrylic with trillions of high-speed electrons the usage of a high voltage particle accelerator.

The accelerator generated a beam of electrons that were accelerated to 99.5% the speed of light. When these energetic electrons slammed into the acrylic, they easily penetrated its surface, in the end coming to rest about half way through. This created a “cloud” of excess negative charge, Referred to as a space charge, to form deep inside the acrylic, very similar to the way charge collects within thunderclouds. Since acrylic is a superb electrical insulator, the injected electrons became temporarily trapped, and a tremendous electrical charge hastily built up as the beam continued to inject billions of new electrons.

The potential of the charged region in this sculpture grew to over two million volts. Eventually, in a process reasonably very similar to natural lightning, the huge electrical stress overcame the insulating strength of the acrylic, and it unexpectedly broke down, hastily releasing the trapped charge. In other cases (as shown in the picture below), breakdown was once manually triggered by poking the charged acrylic with a sharp metal point. The trapped electrons unexpectedly rush out in a powerful surge of electricity carrying hundreds, or even thousands, of amperes. The high-current surge creates a brilliant miniature lightning bolt inside the acrylic, accompanied by a powerful BANG. The process and underlying physics of how we make our Captured Lightning sculptures are more fully described in this video. A one-page explanation of how your sculpture was once created will be shipped together with your sculpture. As with lightning and other high voltage discharges, the branching, self-similar shape of the discharge may also be described mathematically as a kind of fractal.

Although the internal “electrical storm” lasts for less than 100 billionths of a second, its passage creates thousands of permanent microscopic fractures in the acrylic, forming a beautifully preserved Captured Lightning sculpture deep within the acrylic. As with snowflakes, Each and every sculpture is unique. New specimens may still retain an amber color from the irradiation process. Referred to as solarization, this on a regular basis fades with time or through the application of gentle heat. Other specimens may show light fogging from the high-energy irradiation process. Both phenomena are normal and may vary between specimens.

The internal chains of microscopic fractures act as tiny
mirrors, brilliantly reflecting any light that may be injected from the bottom or
along an edge. The sculpture is best viewed against a dark background. Shining
light from in the back of (such as light through a window) can in fact detract from the sculpture’s
detail and overall appearance. Each and every Captured Lightning sculpture is unique.
The lucky buyer will receive a sculpture of comparable quality as the one shown
below, and a one-page explanation about what it is and how it was once created. 
Actual length and width will vary quite (+/- 1/16″), and actual thickness will range between 0.660 – 0.710″.

Lichtenberg Figures combine high technology and beauty – they’re stunning and unique specimens of scientific art. Very few people have in fact seen a Lichtenberg Figure, and far fewer are privileged to own a specimen as nice as this. The internal Lichtenberg Figures literally glow when illuminated along the edge by a bright light or LED’s as the internal fractures sparkle from reflected light. Our team of experienced engineers and physicists are Lichtenberg Figure experts. Stoneridge Engineering offers Lichtenberg Figures that range in size from affordable 2 x 2 x 3/4 inch squares, gorgeous prisms, spheres,  and cubes with multi-layer discharges, to huge 15 x 20 x 2 Inch museum specimens.  See About Me for further information about our unique products and the mad scientists at Stoneridge Engineering. Also, please see our other unique items such as electromagnetically shrunken coins.


“A physical experiment which makes a bang is all the time worth more than a quiet one. Subsequently a man cannot strongly enough ask of Heaven: if it wants to let him discover something, may it be something that makes a bang. It is going to resound into eternity.” G. C. Lichtenberg 1742-1799

PLEASE NOTE:  Items being shipped to countries out of doors the United States is also subject to additional charges (Customs Fees, VAT, or In-Country Mail Service Handling fees). Payment of these fees are the sole responsibility of the buyer.

An ideal item for that scientist or collector on your gift list!



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