Lichtenburg Figures are Awesome.

A Lichtenburg figure is what occurs when an electrical charge passes through an insulating body leaving a tree-like pattern. These patterns get their name from the German physicist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg who originally discovered and studied them. Lightning bolts are probably the most commonly seen examples of Lichtenburg figures, but there are some really interesting ones to be found wherever large amounts of current are discharged. I first became aware that this pattern  had an actual name when i saw this photo on


Yes, that is the pattern that a lightning bolt leaves on your skin if you’re unlucky enough to be hit by one. I will say its a pretty cool, if involuntary way to get tattooed although I’d rather him than me.

Another really visually awesome way that Lightenburg patterns are being created is by Injecting blocks of acrylic with electrons by a particle accelerator. The plastic is irradiated with up to a 6 Million Volt Beam of pure electrons. The charge stays trapped in the block until it is sharply tapped with a nail which opens a path for the electrons to escape. Electrons throughout the block form larger and larger streams as they move toward the fracture. A permanent trace is left throughout the block due to the heat generated. The remaining charge in the block fizzes back and forth between these branches for a couple of hours after the original discharge.

Hammer + Electricity

Full video here.

Footage of what it looks like when they are irradiating the block can be seen here.

If you like this post, check out my recent article about Chladni patterns.

Title photo courtesy of

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About the author: Conor Hughes works as a Marketing Executive at Life Science Recruitment

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