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.

43 thoughts on “Making EL Wire

  1. this is amazingly cool :-)

    interesting idea Jeri, have you considered using some conductive thread in place of the ECW, it would increase the flexibility manyfold.

    also, i wondered about spin coating the thread on a jig with some sort of insulating plastic such as car automotive sealant (good to a couple KV or so) etc.

  2. “Currency of Burning Man” ?

    you mean that we can use el wire as money to pay to get into the burning man contest or if we win we get paid with el wire instead of real money?

  3. heh, this gives me a 1337 idea. get some enamelled copper wire and using two out of phase CCFL transformers and drivers run with a differential frequency of 300 Hz make a OAUGDP “plasma” panel.

    i think jean-louis naudin did this on a model aircraft but the drag reduction is only a few percent at best, better used for flight surface control… :-)

  4. She just made it yesterday, on her live webcam. What I saw of it, it didn’t look too hard. Water, EL powder, and wire. Shake and bake.

    Whats neat is the wire is finer gauge than the commercial stuff and, if you multistrand it, could possibly last longer in certain applications(like clothes).

  5. Is there any way to get rid of the annoying whine that these things produce? I have some of this stuff in a drawer somewhere together with a small driver, and I remember that the whine drove me absolutely insane and thus it ended up in the drawer…

  6. whos with me in saying Jeri Ellsworth is the new keri byron for hot shegeeks?
    not that keri isnt still hot
    awesome hack, why not mix some acetone, goop glue and phosfer into a thin watery paint?

    i need some nichrome wire… that stuff is fun

  7. It would be interesting to see how well this technique could be used to manufacture custom displays. General idea would be to use a double-sided copper-clad PCB and etch your graphics/segments on one side with the power routing done on the opposite side with through-hole plating or such. Use a thin layer of shellac or spray acrylic to coat the etched graphics and when dry spray a coating of phosphor over that. Put a fine wire mesh over the phosphor to act as the other plate of the capacitor, then sandwich the whole thing with glass (using a cheap photo frame, for example.)

  8. @fuzvulf, @incognito53

    wow let’s immediately sexualize a person giving engineering advice on a hacking website!

    and nerds wonder why there are so few women in the sciences — it’s because of all the creepy sexually frustrated goons pawing at anyone with XY chromosomes

  9. My comment had nothing to do about her attractiveness. It had everything to do with her being brilliant.

    For the rest of everyone’s sake, I’m happily married to a brilliant young woman already.

    The rest of you are trying to comprehend what Jeri accomplishes with every post, but I’m pretty sure she’s on a completely different level than most of the people here. In fact I would put money on it.

    @ Octel- How about you shut up?

  10. Very nicely done….an excellent presentation and an interesting topic. While I probably won’t try it, I’m appreciative of those that take the time to do it…..and teach. Thanks

  11. The whine referred to in an earlier post, and that heard in the video, comes from the inductors in the drive circuitry. Encasing the inductors in some sort of epoxy or other liquid->solid compound should quiet them nicely. I wonder if the EL wire itself, with the helical wrap she shows here, produces any audible noise, :).

    By the way, I love how she makes these excellent drawings to convey her design and ideas, and then tosses them away as though they are pieces of scrap. If a drawing like that came from my hand, I would be babying it in a plastic sleeve rather than throwing it on the floor, :P.

  12. heh, all it takes is a cute redhead with a HV power supply to get you all frothy

    rule number 1, dont go for someone who can out nerd you on your favorite subject, and you know she can, cause who else here fabs their own IC’s

  13. Wow, that’s really cool. And approachable. I think I’ll give that a shot when I’m a little less busy. I’m sure my daughters would love to have their names glowing above their doors.

  14. Physical attraction is entirely normal and acceptable, why shouldn’t someone mention someone is attractive, regardless of sex. It’s only a problem if it’s held in higher regard than any of their other abilities or assumed to be their only worthy attribute. She’s obviously smart, and obviously attractive – that’s fairly acceptable, no?

    I think some people on here are over-sensitive, and others are not quite as tactful as they could be. That’s life in general.

  15. Sorry iof this isa daft question but,
    Having trouble sourcing phosphor powder in the UK however there seems to be loads of people selling fluorescent paint powder on Ebay. is this the same sort of thing ?
    If not would it work instead of phosphor ?

  16. @Octel – I haven’t lived at home for 12 year’s, and yet you still bow so low to use Ad Hom. I do have a Life, and that’s exactly why I can take a joke. Also, having been one of the longest viewer’s of this site, I can tell you nothing I have typed out here is against common etiquette.

    A note to everyone who will read this. Without people like Jeri being posted on this site, it would have died quite a long time ago, because as some of us already know. HAD has always been in the red.

  17. Very cool, I had considered EL wire for backlighting on a laptop keyboad, but it’s too thick. But if I could make my own, and keep it thin then it’s certainly a possibility. Thanks Jeri and HAD for posting! :)
    also my eyes kept gravitating back to that green pixel. lol

  18. This is way too cool. I wish there was a way to create individually addressable segments of el wire to create something like those nixie tube VI meters.

    It would seem like the ability to modify the wire at this level would put us well on the way.

  19. I’d love to see if the phosphorescent dye in glow sticks would work to replace the lab phosphors she’s using.

    I seem to have a bunch of spare clear heat shrink tubing about. That might be ideal for coating the makeshift EL wire. That, or the clear spray tool dip you can find at Home Depot.

  20. yeah, clear heatshrink should work..

    interestingly making ZnS:Cu at home is feasible but you need a source of zinc sulphate (made from zinc and sulphuric acid) and hydrogen sulphide (which is highly toxic and flammable!!)
    however it does work if you can’t get the phosphors directly.
    Supposedly you can also use ground up luminous glow stars or paint, making sure it is the infrared quenched sort not the newer Sr2AlEuO5.

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