What is a Lichtenberg tree?


It has been called “trapped lightning,” but is also known as a Lichtenberg tree. We can create these Lichtenberg figures by shooting millions of electrons 99% the speed of light into the top face of an acrylic plaque. The electrons become trapped in the middle when they are absorbed within the density of the plaque. At this point, the acrylic plaque still looks unaffected, even though it has millions of electrons teeming inside. This strongly-charged layer of temporarily trapped electrons is a powerful electric field.

At some point the electric field’s strength exceeds the insulating strength of the acrylic and it discharges, creating a beautiful Lichtenberg tree. A manual discharge can also be achieved by striking the specimen at the desired location. In an instant, portions of the polymer abruptly become electrically conductive in a process called dielectric breakdown. Networks of branching channels form, creating a unique Lichtenberg tree.

Lichtenberg tree

The branching pattern looks similar at various scales of magnification, suggesting that Lichtenberg figures might be mathematically described through fractal geometry. Similar fractal patterns are prevalent throughout nature, as seen in aerial views of rivers and their tributaries, branching tree limbs, your body’s circulatory system, and of course in lightning.

Come visit us at the NPE booth # W5562 and see some of these beautiful Lichtenberg figures. For those parties interested in how electrons can improve their products, we will have sample plaques as a reminder of:


Karen with Signature III





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