Fun with Electrodeposited Fractals

(Updated 22Oct2013: fixed the link to Prof. Hibbert’s page)

Tripped over it by accident, and boy is it neato! Check out Professor Hibbert’s Electrodeposited Fractals Page… do it now (it’s okay, I’ll wait): metal deposited in fractal designs, and you can capture them in coffee filters! My first one took about 5 minutes to set up, and 10 minutes to grow a beautiful copper design looking for all the world like a coronal discharge. Sorry, it was too small for my modest camera to capture it, but I’ll be darned if I can’t figure out 1) something cool to do with it and 2) turn that sucker into BRASS (it’s a hang-up of mine, okay?).
So check it out, grab the root-killer, and make something cool fast!

My “first go” method:

  1. Put a coffee mug in a glass baking dish
  2. Put a coffee filter over it, hat-wise
  3. Wrap some bare copper wire around the coffee filter and coffee cup making a “drum”
  4. Mix up a small amount (tablespoons) of saturated copper sulphate (root-killer) solution
  5. Saturate the coffee filter “drumhead”, mindful of getting it wet all the way to the copper loop holding it in place
  6. Positioned the tip of a separate piece of bare copper wire so that the tip rested in the center of the coffee filter
  7. Connected the center wire to the negative (-) terminal of a 9 volt battery, and the copper loop to the positive (+) terminal of the 9 volt battery.
  8. Watched in awe, (but I’m pretty easily amused).

Update One

  • A slightly more classy version of the basic equipment makes for a better presentation. I picked up a plastic Petri dish at HobbyTown for about $3 (classier than an ashtray). Wound a single loop of solid copper wire around the base of a coffee mug. The loop fits snugly inside the Petri dish and holds the #4 coffee filter taut on the bottom of the dish.
  • Experiment with moving a point-contact “+” electrode around the outer edge of the filter paper to steer the growth pattern.
  • Try positioning a magnet (one of those really strong tiny rare-earth magnets) under the dish beneath the “-” center electrode. How does the magnetic field affect the growth pattern?

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