There are lots of uncommon issues to see round Newton Falls, Ohio—the Wal-Mart with hitching posts for Amish buggies, the Military base with helicopters and tanks proudly organized on hills—however I used to be right here for essentially the most uncommon factor of all: the native Dynamitron. I used to be right here to make frozen lightning.
The Kent State Neo Beam facility’s Dynamitron is a four-story-tall, five-million-volt particle accelerator very similar to a tube TV, solely greater. (Sure, tube TVs are home particle accelerators.) Each Dynamitrons and TVs use excessive voltages and magnets to slam electrons right into a goal. In a TV, that’s the phosphor display; on this Dynamitron, it’s often plastic plumbing parts being hardened by the beam. However once I joined the group of retired electrical engineer Bert Hickman and physicists Invoice Hathaway and Kim Goins, the product was Lichtenberg figures, lightning bolts completely recorded in a block of clear acrylic.
With the Dynamitron—rented for the day—adjusted to round three million volts, it blasts electrons about midway by means of half-inch-thick items of acrylic sheet. The plastic is an excellent insulator, so it traps the electrons inside. Popping out of the machine, the blocks don’t look any totally different, however they maintain a hornet’s nest of electrons determined to get out.
Water Flows Like Electrical energy
Left alone, the electrons will keep trapped for hours, however a knock with a pointy level opens a path for them to make a fast escape. Electrons collect from all elements of the block, becoming a member of as much as type bigger and bigger streams of electrical present on their approach towards the exit level. Because the cost leaves, it heats up and damages the plastic alongside the branching trails it follows, leaving a everlasting hint of its path. If you happen to might see inside a thundercloud within the nanoseconds earlier than a bolt of lightning emerged, you’ll see the identical form of sample. The bolt doesn’t simply pop up totally fashioned; it has to assemble cost from all around the cloud.
You’ll be able to create comparable, if much less everlasting, Lichtenberg figures utilizing toner powder from a copier or printer and any widespread supply of static electrical energy [see below]. That is how German scientist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg first did it within the late 18th century (he used powdered sulfur), which on the time represented one of many nice discoveries within the historical past of electrical energy. At present, the figures are a good way to find out about electrical discharge—and might make a cool memento from a day with a really costly machine.
Drawing a Cost
Make a Lichtenberg Determine
Create a Lichtenberg determine of positive mud, similar to Lichtenberg himself did in 1777
- Place a pointy metallic level so it touches the middle of a sheet of insulating materials. (Lichtenberg used resin comprised of tree sap; right this moment, clear acrylic works effectively.)
- Use a Wimshurst machine [shown above], a Van de Graaff generator, or vigorous shuffling on shag carpeting to construct up static electrical energy, after which contact the metallic level along with your finger or with the machine’s electrode to discharge it. This types a sample of stranded cost on the plastic. The Lichtenberg determine is there; you simply can’t see it.
- Blow photocopier toner over the floor. It can follow the static electrical energy, revealing a stupendous Lichtenberg determine. Lichtenberg’s discovery finally led to the invention of photocopiers and laser printers, the place the cost is laid down in patterns of phrases and pictures.
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