How-To Geek

ShockFossils: Artwork Created With Particle Accelerators

Most artists use paint, clay, and other common materials. Todd Johnson uses acrylic, lead, and a particle accelerator.

He describe the process on his site:

These pieces are created with the help of a particle accelerator. The accelerator produces up to five million volts and is used to accelerate a beam of electrons. The electrons are fired at pieces of acrylic plastic and penetrate deep within the slabs, resulting in a pool of electrons trapped under tremendous electrical potential.

The trapped charge is then carefully released by applying mechanical shock with a sharp insulated tool, and the electrons escape with a bright flash and loud pop. As the charges leave the plastic, they gather into channels following fractal branching rules just like river deltas, plants, and capillaries.

Controlling the energy and placement of the beam determines the final shape and character of the resulting figure.

Watch the video above to see it in action and then hit up the link below to see examples of the beautiful finished products.

Shock Fossils [via Boing Boing]

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 02/14/12

Comments (5)

  1. Ushindi

    Very nice – it was interesting enough to get me to look up “fractal branching rules”. I’ve learned something new.

  2. Cody

    Amazing! Given the psychotic amounts of energy needed to charge these slabs, what do you suppose are the chances these will ever be commercially available? I would LOVE to have one in my living room.

  3. George

    I believe the same thing can be generated by leaving a Chevy Volt plugged in overnight. I would say cheaper too, but I’m not sure about that.

  4. Mgon

    Wow. That is fascinating!

  5. Bert Hickman

    These are now available commercially – see

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