Make your own LEDs


Ever wanted to make your own LED? You might be tempted to after reading how easy it is. No, this won’t really be a practical LED that you would use to light a project, but it is very cool anyway. [Michael] picked up a box of Moissanite, or Silicon Carbide, on eBay for roughly $1. Making the LED is as easy as putting your positive lead to the crystal and touching it with a sewing needle attached to a negative lead. He has tips on how to get the best results as well as a little bit of history of LEDs on the site.

[thanks Andreas]


  1. Kiwisaft says:

    sounds the same way, they built diodes for radios 50 years ago from germanium crystals, i think

  2. Josh says:

    @kiwisaft… Indeed. And the article makes reference to the “cat’s-whisker” diode.

  3. Marco says:

    Why does he insist on connecting the positive lead to the clamp?

  4. bumblebee says:

    Well, that’s how diodes work, without going too deep into the physics of the situation. To over-simplify, the spot where the cats whisker contacts the crystal is a PN junction. Electrons are pushed across the junction barrier by the application of electrical “pressure” leaving “holes”. When free electrons “fall” into those “holes” photons are liberated which we see as light. It only works in one direction, which defines a diode. I’m probably making some EE’s out there cringe, maybe they can do a better job at explaining.

  5. xrazorwirex says:

    I’m only trained as a servicer and that’s pretty much the basic overview I got on p/n junctions – ee’s delve into crazy shit that almost nobody else would want to know.

  6. vikki says:

    fun to watch, but i fail to see any practical application. meh.

  7. josh says:

    @vicki…not everything here has to have a practical application. and not too many on this site lately are practical (ie, twittering gas emissions and toilet flushes). this article goes into the basics of how LED’s work, which is helpful for many who are just starting to learn how things work, and how it used to be done.

  8. Michael says:

    Wow, thanks to feature my site! No there is no real application. But I am currently trying to use the silicon carbide from sand paper and some epoxy glue to make tiny replicas of the leds from soviet russia. To me the project was just about doing something that I thought was impossible at home in a few very easy steps :-)

  9. jay says:

    Michael, how big is a ‘sowing’ needle? I assume it is at least 1/2″ wide, otherwise how would you plant the seeds? (Joking of course. It’s spelled sewing)

    I really like the idea here though.

  10. ehrichweiss says:

    nice…not practical…but nice

  11. nubie says:


  12. vikki says:

    to josh
    even the twittering toilet has a more practical app than this, you could install them in public restrooms and see how often a particular toilet is used, if your the one responsible for cleaning them, this information becomes useful, a toilet that doesn’t get used, doesn’t need cleaned.

    you want to learn about how led’s work, try or otherwise show me how to make a 5 watt led.

  13. stithyoshi says:

    Ha, I find this awesome just because I love to do things the old hard way. Right now I’m working on building a minicomputer using RTL, and I have to say that, for whatever reason, I find that building things the way they were built when the technology was only first emerging is quite a thrill when you get it to work. I’m very interested to see how your soviet epoxy LEDs turn out!

  14. Hackius says:

    @bumblebee: that’s about right. You didn’t make me cringe. There are very specific rules for photons to be liberated (most of the times they don’t) but other than that your explanation is great.

  15. hubert says:

    Nice Idea…
    i have always tried this before and never had so good looking effects. But i took the sic from the socket of an old lightbulb like described on this german website.

  16. mike says:

    This is pretty cool, its the kind of thing you would never expect to happen outside of a clean room where they are manufactured.

  17. andre says:

    might also work with low melt alloy as the “clamp”… also its possible to spray paint or electroplate the SiC with ITO, allowing more of the crystal to glow.


  18. Christa says:

    They did this on MAKE a few months ago too. Check it out, it looks like it works fairly well.

  19. bumblebee says:

    @hackius…thanks…I guess that means I actually didn’t sleep through the lecture back in 1984 when I was getting my 2-year degree.

    For those who think that this has no practical application…well not today, but it’s always a good thing to know the HOW and WHY of techie things because that’s what stimulates ideas on new developments. We’ve become far too dependent on “black-box” thinking. I’ve actually constructed a functioning vacuum tube out of a canning jar based on some plans I found through Lindsay Publications. Not for any practical reason, but because it was a challenge that our grandfathers took on. You simply never know when being able to “MacGuiver” something from absolute scratch might come in handy.

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