Art takes many forms. As a chemist, I was assigned the task of forming high frequency electrical devices. I “grew” them from water based solutions of copper salts. I then electroplated them in gold baths. I’d found my kind of art – random electroform art! No one can say it is unoriginal.
A form, or mandrel, was made of machined aluminum. A sodium zincate dip and rinse followed. Copper was grown over that. Not all areas received growth, though. Forms were masked to prevent growth in certain spots with a vinyl coating. This was applied by dipping and “painting.”
After drying, the mandrel was inserted into the bath. Electricity was applied. Copper deposition began. After growth completion, the piece was removed from the bath. It was then rinsed, dried, and machined.
So how does art develop from this? It happens when an unseen pinhole in the vinyl allows unintended copper growth. A “finger” begins to grow, a dendrite.
Now the bath used required a huge amount of chemical brightener. This brightener caused areas on the dendrite that attracted the most electricity to draw less. Other areas picked up the difference. This transforms the dendrite from a sharp edged fragile object, to a smooth, shiny, beautiful art object.
Random Electroform Art
Occasionally that growth was so beautiful, it demanded preservation. It was provided by depositing a thin film of gold followed by a protective lacquer coating. The attached photo is my favorite example of dendritic random electroform art.
Though I retired in 2005, I still have this wonderful reminder of my “glory days” working at the NRAO. It also reminds me of the share I had in advancing the scientific study of outer space.
Note: You might also enjoy Why Electroless Plating and Electroplating?