DIY Russian EL Display

Well, I’m pretty sure this is a hand made radioactive (as in Radium) electroluminescent display. The original post was in Russian, and it’s translated version doesn’t read very coherently. It appears they they borrowed a street sign, melted the radium paint down and painted their own display. In the end, they wired it up to a Sinclair Z80. Funky. Thanks [Viktos]

22 thoughts on “DIY Russian EL Display

  1. “To fill panic horror before radiation it is not necessary, in fact it is an alpha-radiation, that is so weak, “
    I heard Polonium is also a nice substance for such projects, one can find it all over London >:->.

  2. re: translations

    Having interned in Germany it can be just as hard for the rest of the world to translate all the cool hacking articles coming out of the english speaking world. If you’re gunna complain about translations, make sure you at least write your own hacks so that the picutures and diagrams fill in the google translator gaps.

  3. I speak fluent Russian, so I read the original article. Fun stuff.
    I don’t have time to translate the whole article, but if you’re wondering about a certain passage, feel free to ask me – i’ll be glad to help out.

  4. That’s pretty wild – and the translation quite amusing. :) But there are a few things I don’t understand, if someone can explain:

    1) After re-reading several times, it appears that the road sign is only a source of some luminescent compound, and doesn’t actually contain radium. The author just happened to have a vial of radium salts handy! (The vial is shown in the original article, and the contents don’t resemble the material extracted from the sign.) So where the heck do you get that? Do they just sell that kind of thing over-the-counter in Russia??
    2) How does applying electricity to this paint cause it to glow brighter? It can’t make the radium *more* radioactive, can it? Or does it directly stimulate the luminescent compound – in which case, why is the radium needed at all?
    3) Mentioned is the possibility of making an RGB display from what I assume are radioactive “salts of cobalt, cadmium or osmium”. But the radioactive material only charges the luminescent compound, so using a different radioactive material wouldn’t change the color; you’d need to change the luminescent compound instead. I don’t understand the need to steal road signs or obtain exotic nuclear materials, as luminescent powders are relatively cheap and freely available in a variety of colors.

  5. From what i understand, he pulled the radium from a glowing ‘sideboard toy’, evidently in russia they have radioactive knick-knacks.

    The radium excites the compound they pulled from the sign, which is some sort of ‘glow-in-the-dark’ material rather than something just shiny.

  6. Darkcobra:
    1) like lonas said, this guy found a glo-in-the dark figurine “from grandma’s sideboard”. Apparently those were popular back when people weren’t afraid of radiation. I’ve heard that you can find some of these “tinted” artefacts in US as well. He also says that some old handwatches with glowing background also have the same radioactive material. He mentions that the radiation is only alpha, not gamma, and these levels are easily blocked with glass behind which they’re hidden.

    3) IIRC, those salts have color

  7. you can obtain various radioactive materials on ebay the last time i checked, i’ve even seen radium paint available, just ahve to watch it for a while. There are also pots and dishes and such stuff available in the US made in the 30’s and 40’s that have radium in them.

  8. he used the z80 (CPU) and built a simple version of Sinclair (btw, the most popular variant is Spectrum, not zx80)
    “Although it’s not a work of art, I can consider myself cooler than the creator of first Apple: not only have I put together a Sinclair, but a monitor for it as well”

    wonder if he’ll build a tape deck to load games onto this bad boy :D

  9. sorry, it is a homemade sinclair. it is probably closer to a zx80 or zx81 than a spectrum though, as the zx80 was designed with standard ttl stuff, the spectrum and ’81 had custom ics. Spectrum had a colour display too.

  10. So it’s a handbuilt ZX80 clone.

    I have a ZX80, boxed with manuals, in my computer shed. It was sent to my dad by Clive Sinclair himself when he wrote a letter to the company asking for a free one.

  11. If this guy doesn’t think radium is unhealthy, he should read a little about Marie Curie…

    That being said, it’s amazing what people can come up with using limited resources. Interesting project, for sure.

  12. Okay, the radium stuff is just to show the luminescence in a simplified setting. Notice, he doesn’t talk about putting radium into his screen, only the “luminophor”.

    By the way, the danger from radium isn’t penetrating radiation (the author is correct, alpha particles don’t even penetrate the dead layer of your skin), it’s the fact that your bones treat radium like calcium, and lock it away for later use; alpha particles then bombard your bone marrow from one cell away. Any dust you ingest (mucus with trapped, inhaled particles usually gets swallowed) will be very unhealthy.

    The salts of cobalt, cadmium and osmium produce light at different frequencies; he isn’t thinking about them for radioactivity. The first two are toxic, and the third is exorbitantly expensive (pricier than platinum!), which might be the difficulty he’s having. The first two aren’t hard to get at all: Ni-Cd batteries have metallic Cd (at least, when fully charged…), and Li-ion batteries have cobalt oxide (with varying quantities of intercalated lithium…it’s purer, again, when the battery is fully charged).

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