10,000 watt fluorescent array

This is an array of flourescent tubes that form a display. The video above is just two modules of a ten module installation that [Valentin] and his team are showing at an exhibition in Berlin tomorrow. The connected modules form something of a scrolling 16-segment display (similar to the 17 segment display modules of the ninja party badges but much larger). They’re using triacs, optocouplers, DMX, and an Arduino to interface a computer with the 182 fluorescent tubes of the display. Check out a second video after the break to see (or be blinded by) all ten modules pulling 10,000 watts.


  1. Johannes Burgel says:

    What amazes me the most:

    How much money and resources you can throw at an “art” project and still end up with something that looks like crap.

    If this is “art” then the giant LED advertisement screens all over Tokio must be worth a freaking nobel prize

  2. Gabe says:

    I’d love more info on the power control circuitry for this hack, and to know how the ballasts were integrated (or removed/replace with something better).

  3. At least use the wattage to grow some vegetables indoors or something.

  4. loans says:

    The only thing I got out of the second video was ‘very bright’

    I think my german suffices.

  5. Fallen says:

    That video made me nauseous for some reason.

  6. David Murray says:

    I’m curious how they overcame issue of start-up delay on those type of tubes. Do they have to be warmed up first before they work reliably or is that a ballast issue? (which I assume they have built custom electronic ballasts)

  7. chicosoft says:

    Talking about global warming…
    no purpose, and looks like crap..

  8. Andrew says:

    I’m a huge fan of bright lights.. I’ve been doing high wattage LED projects that you can call “art” – I think the art part of this is how intensely bright it is and the control they have over those fluorescent (dimming a fluorescent can be very difficult using triacs)

    If you ever build a project involving high brightness, you’ll come to love it. It’s exhilarating.

    PS. I built an RGB array of 8 3W RGB LED’s, and I made three of them for parties. Not one friend thought it wasn’t the most awesome thing they saw anyone build, and all of them said “its too bright, but so awesome!”

  9. Peter says:

    If those are standard 40 watt fluorescent tubes, then 16 of them (one module) use 640 watts, and 10 modules would use 6,400 watts. Not quite 10,000.

    If they used 4 foot T8 tubes, they could save 20% of that and be under 5000 watts.

  10. stevediraddo says:

    They need some sort of light separation like cardboard or something, so the bulbs dont light up the bulbs next to them.

  11. Shadyman says:


    My thoughts exactly.

  12. Hirudinea says:

    Finaly, now I can build my giant calculator!

  13. Akoi Meexx says:

    @loans: My thoughts exactly.

  14. Gabe says:

    @David Murray I wanna know that too, this is similar to a project I had thought of, but I never quite figured out how to avoid the start-up flickering, and how to get the dimming to work.

  15. Orv says:

    Keep in mind it’s not pulling 10 kW *continuously*, so the carbon footprint isn’t as bad as you’d initially think. Also, a typical data center rack stuffed with reasonably dense servers pulls 6 to 10 kW these days, so if you’re using the Internet, you can’t really point fingers. ;)

  16. Olivier says:

    @Orv : servers have a real use… this thing has no usage, and it doesn’t even look nice.

  17. McSquid says:

    meh, “Art” is something that has eluded me for most of my life. especially stuff like this. i feel like 50% of today’s art is just something pointless that needed a purpose to justify its existence. so its labeled as “Art”. Pretty easy to tag something with a purpose that’s entirely subjective.

  18. ajoakim says:

    182 x 32 = 5824 watts with ballast
    182 x 35 = 6370 watts

    Where does the 10,000 watts come from?

  19. Anon says:

    I can think of a great purpose for this array. A rock concert. Ok, still art, but light shows are a basic part of live rock ‘n’ roll. It wouldn’t be lights for the sake of lights. Call me a waster of energy, but I love to have 100,000+ watts of light and sound overwhelming my senses…good times:)

  20. fruehrentner says:


    I translated it if you’re interested:

    So i just want to announce todays success.
    As you can see its very bright in here.
    And that’s because all 128 tubes …
    [From the off: 182]
    … all 182 tubes are working and obey our commands
    … and can be switched on and off.
    Everything ist still pretty makeshift here at the “Paloma5″ office,
    but the day after tomorrow we’re off to the “Club Transmediale”,
    where they [the tubes] will be placed in a more adequate setting.
    We will make some more videos there.

  21. jjrh says:

    @McSquid that made a lot of sense actually.
    On another note they might seem more awesome in person.

  22. stib says:

    10KW (and more) lights are used fairly regularly on film shoots. That’s 10KW for a single light. They’re usually HMI http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrargyrum_medium-arc_iodide_lamp but you can get incandescent ones.

    I like the idea, but all I got from the video was that the person operating the video camera was a dud.

  23. Rachel says:

    The second video shows exactly why I wish consumer video cameras had manual exposure.

  24. sarsface says:


    Seriously. It looked like there were atomic bombs detonating every 3 seconds.

  25. RBRat3 says:

    Most consumer cameras do its just most people rather keep their pride as being smart than to actually read the manual.

  26. GSV Ethics Gradient says:

    I’m guessing you have to see it in person to really appreciate it. I don’t think a crappy camera and youtube is going to be quite the same.

  27. Ned Scott says:

    For the love of god, tell this man how to use manual exposure!

  28. Tachikoma says:

    @ajoakim: Do your numbers represent operating power consumption, or peak power? Peak power, particularly when you turn the tubes on, could easily burn 10kW.

  29. Jim Doyle says:

    This has been done before by United Visual Artists @ london.


  30. Gert says:

    10 000 Watts! Those tubes won’t live long.
    Also i don’t like stuff/art that uses too much energy or resources. It is a reflection or an expression of the artists, but still; i’m not putting up a gigawatt tesla tower because i like lightning. Some things should remain the artist’s dream.

  31. Whoever says:

    @Gert: Really? Because I’d LOVE (heck, even pay) to see that GW Tesla coil.

    And by the way, I agree with Rachel that _every_ camera should have manual exposure and manual white balance. I have a *prosumer* HD camera and it has neither manual exposure or WB, this is just ridiculous. At least they haven’t taken away manual focus.

    As for the array, as much as I don’t really dig it, you must admit it’d have it’s uses in the commercial/live entertainment sectors. It doesn’t have to be a piece of “art” in itself, it can be just, you know, a huge bright display.

  32. poot says:

    That has to be the stupidest idea ever. fluorescent lights are not meant to be turned on and off that often. It will kill them very fast. Ever notice that fluorescent lights in bathrooms die faster, then say in your living room…even though they are not on as long as the ones in the living room. It is because they are not meant to be turned off and on often. I hope they recycle them correctly..lots of mercury in those things.

  33. Frogz says:

    why does everyone think this is a friken “art” project?!?!
    individually addressable 16 segment displays..
    somthing like this can easily display masstive scrolling(or short) alphanumeric text which is PROBABLY its intended use
    each bulb needs a shield so it doesnt illuminate it’s partners(i would personally go with aluminum flashing as its easy to cut and shape, just need a bunch of Us that go around the bulbs, since this display probably isnt “rated” for outdoor use you could make due with cardboard)

  34. Frogz says:

    oh also

    listed on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourteen-segment_display

    it can display thai numerals and persian letters as well

  35. Tom says:

    128 tubes, not 182.

  36. anasan says:

    Check this piece from UVA instead, way cooler:


  37. frebbs says:

    looks like shit. but then again its a good excuse for buying 10k watts worth of lamps for your indoor weed garden.

    next stage should be using ten thousand HPS lamps for making a dot matrix display.

  38. clinton says:

    I’m going to go ahead and say Daft Punk beat these guys to their own idea…four years ago. google daft punk coachella.

  39. tristan says:

    if you use electronic ballasts you dont get flicker on startup (no starters), you can also overdrive them, but the lamps dont last long. thats prob how they are getting the wattage increase over std

  40. Valentin says:


    is the final outcome of the project

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