ESA Warns of Unsafe Use of Electrical Equipment to Assemble Lichtenberg Generators

June 1, 2019 — The Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) is warning against using high voltage energy sources such as microwave oven transformers or similar components to manufacture Lichtenberg generators. These generators are used to create art and abstract objects by burning fractal patterns into various materials such as wood and acrylic.

Do not attempt to assemble or use a Lichtenberg generator for any purpose. They are extremely dangerous, contain live accessible wiring and components, and are unsafe for any use or handling. Both homemade and pre-built Lichtenberg generators are considered to have the potential to seriously injure and/or kill the user.

ESA is aware of multiple incidents in Ontario involving these generators that were used in an unsafe manner resulting in a fatality and critical injuries.

All of these generators, whether homemade or purchased, are unapproved by Certification Bodies / Inspection Bodies, have not been evaluated or tested to any Canadian safety standards and do not bear any recognized Canadian electrical safety certification marks.  

These generators are reportedly homemade, using instructions on the internet, and are assembled with parts and components that are obtained from a variety of sources and are not approved for this type of use. 

Some of these generators are marketed as complete products and indicate that they are built with approved / certified components.  However, the overall product has not been evaluated to any known electrical safety standard(s) for this type of product, as applicable to Canadian consumers and marketplace.  

The risks associated with building and using a Lichtenberg Generator include:

  • Potentially unsafe construction and assembly methods
  • Both short and long term degradation of the product and components
  • Physiological effects of exposure to high voltage / high frequency energy sources
  • Lack of quality control processes and procedures
  • Inadequate instructions pertaining to usage, storage, maintenance, required type(s) of personal protective equipment, etc.

How To Report Unsafe Electrical Products: 

  • If generators exist in the marketplace or are offered for sale they should be considered unsafe and reported to ESA or Health Canada immediately. When reported, suppliers within ESA’s jurisdiction will be contacted. Consumers and hobbyists are encouraged to contact ESA at 1-877-ESA-SAFE or complete the online Product Safety Reporting Form.
  • Lichtenberg generators may have counterfeit electrical safety approval labels applied to them to falsely indicate that they are safe.  Should you find a generator that appears to have a certification or approval mark do not purchase or use it and please contact ESA or Health Canada immediately with the supplier details.

The disassembling of products such as a microwave oven and / or similar devices or appliances with the purpose of removing the high voltage transformer and other parts to build these generators are in breach of Ontario Regulation 438/07 Product Safety and 164/99 Ontario Electrical Safety Code.  Please be advised that a person or company in Ontario that contravenes the foregoing Regulation may be prosecuted and upon conviction subject to fines up to $50,000 and / or one year imprisonment.