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We hear a lot from students who want to incorporate fibre optics in some fashion or art project. Occasionally one of these strikes us as particularly interestesting and worth sharing with a wider audience. Such was this project in the Spring of 2009 by Lucinda Orrell, a student at the University of Western England in Bristol.

Lucinda’s plan was to combine optical fibres with glass wax to create a glowing dynamic piece of art. Glass wax is a wax which sets very clear and which is used by special effects people in the movie industry to simulate glass. Ordinary, inexpensive bare pmma optical fibre was used, in conjunction with a 100 watt halogen light source. 

The fibres were arrayed, suspended in a grid and then molten wax was dribbled painstakingly down each fibre, cooling as it went and building up deposits of wax along the fibre length to create glassy stalactites. That was an interesting enough effect in its own right, but Lucinda introduced a dynamic element by rotating the piece so that the fibres projected outwards, rather than downwards. So, from static stalactites or icicles the glowing wax elements were transformed into something more like a breaking wave or explosion of water.

The glass wax explodes out from the face of the mounting plate, like a breaking wave frozen in time. Behind the piereced metal plate the shadowy form of the halogen light source is just visible.