When you spend your days and nights looking at the beautifully intricate branches of neurons, sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the laptop. Hiking? Yoga? Surfing? Not for me! More brains, different format.
Daniela and I have been working toward a fine art bronze cast neuron. It’s a fascinating process but it’s slow, so to get a little excitement flowing with the liquid-metal dendritic arbors, I made an aluminum cast neuron with our friends at Stonybrook Fine Arts. Here’s the relatively easy and inexpensive process that can be duplicated at your local foundry, in case you want to make your own aluminum Eyewire cell!
First, etch a shape into a resin-hardened block of sand. I chose a shape inspired by the excitatory Layer 2 pyramidal neurons of cortex, like we’ll be mapping in Neo.
Next coat the surface of the sand resin with graphite alcohol so that the aluminum doesn’t stick. Burn off the alcohol.
Pour in molten aluminum
Wait a few minutes and break the cast from the sand resin
Brush off the dirt and dunk in water to cool.
Scrub off excess sand.
Wire brush and sandblast for a nice shine.
Voila, your very own one of a kind aluminum neuron!
If you’re working on a brain art project inspired by Eyewire, we’d love to hear about it and feature it on the blog. Drop us a note to firstname.lastname@example.org