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.

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EL Wire: make it, connect it, power it

[Jeri’s] back with a series of videos that outlines the step-by-step electroluminescent wire manufacturing, making EL panels from PCBs, and assembling power supplies for EL hardware. These concepts are actually quite approachable, something we don’t expect from someone who makes their own integrated circuits at home.

The concept here is that an alternating current traveling through phosphors will excite them and produce light. You need two conductors separated by a dielectric to get the job done. For wire, [Jeri] uses one strand of enameled magnet wire and one strand of bare wire. The enamel insulates them, protecting against a short circuit.

But that’s not all, she also tests using a circuit board as an EL panel. By repurposing the ground plane as one of the conductors, and using the solder mask as the dielectric she is able to paint on a phosphor product resulting in the glowing panel.

Finally, you’ve got to get juice to the circuit and that’s where her power supply video comes into the picture. We’ve embedded all three after the break. It’s possible that this is cooler than blinking LEDs and it’s fairly inexpensive to get started. The circuitry is forgiving, as long as you don’t zap yourself with that alternating current.

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Making EL wire

[Jeri Ellsworth] adds electroluminescent wire to the list of things she makes. The materials list is incredibly low. The common components are epoxy coated magnet wire for the center conductor and bare wire for the second conductor. The part you don’t have on hand is phosphors, although she does link to a source.

The bad news: she doesn’t show us the build process or share the details about the inductor that fires this thing up. The good news: in-depth videos are on the way. In the mean time you can marvel in her glowing success at the end of the video, or check out some of her other electroluminescent fun.

Out now: EL coat, Coming soon: EL hat

[Render] says his coat is simply “enhanced with EL wire”, but we know the truth. He’s secretly an alien that can’t block out all of his glowing green skin with a the black coat. No? Fine,

You can put away the sewing machine, [Render] simply used a needle and fishing line to attach ~50-70 foot of electroluminescent wire to the outside of a coat he picked up at a local clothing shop. Solder and program in an inverter and controller board thanks to SparkFun, and you’re ready to go.

Just double check all your connections, high voltage directly on your person is not fun. Trust us.

BAMF2010: DIY electroluminescent displays

In this video from Maker Faire, [Jon Beck] of CLUE — the Columbia Laboratory for Unconventional Electronics — demonstrates the unexpected ease of creating custom electroluminescent (EL) displays using materials from DuPont and common t-shirt screen printing tools. Eagle-eyed reader [ithon] recognized the Hack a Day logo among the custom shapes, which escaped our notice at the time. Sorry, Jon! Very cool project, even if the setup is a bit steep. You’ll find links to materials at the project site.

If the interviewer seems especially sharp, that’s because it’s none other than [Jeri “Circuit Girl” Ellsworth], who makes transistors from scratch and designed the C64 DTV. We’re not worthy!