Jeri makes flexible EL displays

A failed chemistry experiment led [Jeri Ellsworth] to discover a flexible substrate for electroluminescent displays. We’re familiar with EL displays on the back of a glass panel like you would find in an audio receiver, but after making a mesh from aluminum foil [Jeri] looked at using the porous metal to host phosphors. She starts by cleaning foil and using a vinyl sticker to resist etching portions of the aluminum. It then goes into a bath of boric acid, electrified with the foil as the anode. As the foil etches she tests the progress by shining a laser through the foil. After this the phosphors are applied to the back surface of the foil, covered in a dielectric, and topped off with a conductive ink that will carry the AC necessary to excite the phosphors. This is layering materials in reverse compared to her EL PCB experiments. See [Jeri] explain this herself in the clip after the break.

You can see above that this produces a pretty well-defined display area. It reminds us of that color changing paint display. We think it would be worth a try to build a few 7-segment displays using this method.

[via Instructables]


  1. Caleb Kraft says:

    Can someone other than Jeri please do some cool EL and/or chemistry stuff?

    We love Jeri’s work but we also love diversity!

  2. Squirrel says:

    Hey!! Her stuck pixel is gone!!

  3. Sariel says:


    Sounds like someone has a bit of penis envy…

    seriously she does really great work, and I wish that someone else out there could think on such a large scale as she does. Fact is though, atm nobody is willing to step up for the task. Most of us, I’m sure, would have threw away the foil from this experiment and thought nothing of it.

  4. Tom Brandt says:

    You will get more consistent anodizing if you don’t allow metals like Iron, Copper to touch the Boric acid solution while anodizing. That includes your alligator clips! Metals like Lead and Titanium are used commercially as the cathode material to anodize aluminum. You can also use Sulfuric Acid as the electrolyte (1:1 battery acid:water). The advantage of Boric acid is that it makes a denser (tougher) anodized film. Current density also greater effects the quality of anodizing. The higher the current density, the softer the resulting film.

  5. Ken says:

    “Instead of considering this a failure I decided to figure out a way to use this…” – Way to be Jeri.

  6. I was shooting for a non-porous oxide barrier, so I chose not to use sulfuric acid. Thanks for the tip about the iron. Maybe that is part of my problem.


  7. Rene says:

    Seems like silver mylar might work for this. Flexible, durable, not actually opaque, and very uniform. Apply phosphor w/ a stencil.

  8. Hmm I wonder how well this could be applied to vehicle skin. It would probably look like crap unless you flood the entire thing in clear coat but I think it could work. Instead of solid foil the transfer foil could possibly used…gold? Then stencil on the pattern and clear coat it at the end….hmmmmm

  9. zzzomb says:

    Sadly can’t view the youtube vid from here. Can someone tell me what is used for the phosphor?

  10. zzzomb – It’s Dupont Luxprint and you can get it in small quantities from a

    or you can make your own, but it’s not easy and the results aren’t as bright.

  11. Whatnot says:

    She should get a roll of clear packing tape, it’s nice and wide and cheap and always handy and available everywhere, beats using several strips of cello tape.

  12. Whatnot says:

    Or sello tape I should say

  13. walt says:

    Jeri? instructables? why??!!!!

    what’s the point of linking us to that crummy site when all they have, in this case, is a youtube video. for those of you not wanting to touch that joke of a site, here’s the vid:

  14. zeropointmodule says:

    Neat hack jeri :-) i was wondering how to make a front contact which could take a reasonable amount of current.

    makes sense to use Al foil as it is easy to get hold of.

    Wonder if the same technique would work with any other materials such as Cu PCB stock?

  15. sometechguy says:

    Thanks for the excellent video Jeri. Instructables is fine, phooey on the dumb people who complain that their porridge is too cold.

  16. j s says:

    It’s a chemical hazard display…specifically corrosive.

  17. Joe says:

    Adding explosion sounds to high fives!
    ma that’s genius!
    loved it, tahnks :)

  18. hirnlager says:

    make small holes with a thin needle? ;)
    or if you develop a battery to a wire anschlisst and this underlines the aluminum foil over these holes;), sorry for my english i use a translator :/

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