Want to give someone a unique present? How about a bolt of lightning? Bert Hickman’s work of art are literally stunning. He creates “Captured Lightnings” by blasting clear blocks of acrylic with millions of volts of electrical charge, using a high-energy particle accelerator, creating permanent “fossilized” tree-like patterns that reflect light like microscopic mirrors.
Bert Hickman’s works are scientifically known as Lichtenberg figures, only the artist and his physicist friend Todd Johnson have managed to turn them into artworks by creatng lightning bolts in the shape of butterflies, stars, trees and even the Yin Yang symbol. 65-year-old Hickman breaks down the process of making his Captured Lightnings: “To create our sculptures, we rent “beam time” on a 5 million volt particle accelerator. As the accelerator injects huge numbers of electrons inside a clear acrylic plastic specimen, a huge electrical charge (typically 1 – 2.5 million volts) builds inside.” He also manually creates an escape path for the electrical charge, a weakened path through the acrylic, to achieve the desired shapes. While the electricity escapes in a short lightning-like discharge, the intense heat from this miniature lightning leaves branching patterns that are permanently captured within the acrylic. These patterns are a ‘fossilized’ chain of microscopic fractures and tubes that reflect light like microscopic mirrors.
Explaining how the whole Captured Lightning art project began, Hickman explains on his site: “We were intrigued by the incredible beauty and the physics of Lichtenberg Figures but we were continually frustrated by their scarcity. A group of fellow “Spark Whisperers” (physicists and electrical engineers) decided to conduct independent research into the theory and technique of producing them.” Check out how one of these electrifying works of art is created in the video at the bottom of the page, and head over to the artist’s official site to check out more of his works.
Photos © Ben Hickman