Atmospheric Air Pressure Implosion Sculpture

Atmospheric Air Pressure Implosion Sculpture

In a marriage of art and science, I’m developing a sort of metal vacuformed relief sculpture device that uses air pressure to push in on a sheet of steel and effect a controlled change in its shape.

Here’s how it works; normal atmospheric air pressure at sea level is 14.7 psi (pounds per square inch). That’s over one ton of air pressing down on every square foot! Atmospheric pressure is basically the weight of air which is pressing down on us at all times. To “crush” a steel sculpture the air pressure inside a sealed vessel must be lowered to allow the outside pressure to push it inwards. This can be done in two ways. Method one, the air inside the steel vessel is heated and the steam allowed to escape. Then the sculpture is sealed off and cooled rapidly with water to create lower pressure inside which will cause the atmospheric pressure outside to crush it inwards. Another less dramatic option is to vacate the air pressure inside the vessel using a vacuum pump.

Looking like something out of Jules Verne, the implosion vessel is built out of heavy welded steel to withstand the intense pressure.

The polygonal vacuum vessel pictured above, is made of heavy steel on five sides and measures 38″ x  28″ x  7″ deep. The front sheet, missing in the photo, will be the imploded section. It is made of thinner gauge steel and thus susceptible to the greatest change when put under pressure. The front sheet will become the artwork, and removed after it is imploded. The remaining vessel can be reused for another manipulation after attaching a new front sheet.

I’m conducting experiments to find out the optimal gauge steel to use and how much annealing to employ to soften it.  Another option is to heat up the front sheet just before implosion and therefore increase its malleability while it’s hot. I fabricated a specially designed, rigid internal structure that the steel will be pushed down onto. This internal armature is designed to reveal the face of Salvador Dali after the implosion takes place in less than a second!

I chose Dali as he embraced science in his art. He used the cutting edge theories of his time about the structure of atoms as elements in his paintings. The “crown” symbol he used over his signature was taken from a revolutionary high speed photograph of a drop of milk.

The rigid internal armature that the sheet of steel will be forced down onto to create the face of Salvador Dali.

The steel face will be revealed via implosion as a demonstration “event”. As the vessel is imploded, imagine the face of Salvador Dali magically appearing in a sheet of steel, wham!

This face forming internal structure will be secured to the stable inside back plate of the implosion vessel. The front sheet of steel will be sucked down on the vessel using air pressure ala the Magdeburg hemispheres. The final assembly will have a the “floating” front sheet atop the five-sided polygonal vessel with a vacuum pump nozzle plumbed into the side.

The front sheet will be slightly larger than the front of the vessel opening to allow for slippage during implosion. I constructed two identically shaped round cornered rectangular clamping rims which will sandwich the front plate and hopefully eliminate any air leaks during the deformation of the front sheet and prevent loss of vacuum pressure during implosion.

May 1st, 2018, completed the implosion vessel construction today. All that remains is to install a vacuum hose fitting and put the finishing touches on the face form for the inside. Then I will figure out how exactly to vacate the pressure inside with a vacuum pump or a vacuum tank attached to it with a one way on/off valve.

Stay tuned for information about the implosion premiere event time and place.

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