High Voltage Hacks: All About Electroluminescence

Although many might not know it, electroluminescent materials use high voltage, and thus qualify for our featured topic. Many may assume that these sheets work in the same way as LED lights, using low-voltage DC power.  This, however, is not the case, as they need around 100 volts of AC current to allow them to light up.

For a battery-powered solution, this means converting the battery’s DC power to AC. Adafruit has a good tutorial about working with EL wire and powering it up using a portable inverter. One should obviously be careful to properly insulate any clothing using this material as being shocked is generally not fun.

The video after the break is pretty long, but is well produced and will give you a good background of EL use. If you don’t have 30 minutes to dedicate to this, be sure to at least skip to 2:43 to see one of the coolest EL shirts we’ve seen.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QfV-ygFL_M&w=470&h=345%5D

For another related hack, check out this one by [Jeri Ellsworth] about making EL ink.

11 thoughts on “High Voltage Hacks: All About Electroluminescence

    1. Of course, what did you think AC stood for? ;)

      -from the redundant department of redundancy

      (for those who don’t get the joke, AC stands for alternating current and DC stands for direct current)

      1. Yes, to say “100 volts AC current” makes no sense.

        You’ve just said, 100 volts of alternating current current.

        Also, as I commented in the other mains switching HV article, it’s still only low voltage.

        All mains voltage, (including 3 phase) is low voltage.

        What the article calls low voltage (less than 50v) is actually classified extra low voltage.

        Has to be over 1000v AC or 1500 DC to be HV…


        So the article is wrong. (Technically and grammatically.)
        EL wire works on Low voltage,
        Which can be obtained from Extra low voltage DC…

  1. I’ve done a few EL-wire projects and… it’s weak. LITERALLY. Anyway it’s so two years ago! Writeups leave out two things:
    1) working with fragile, high frequency high voltage it is a pain, and
    2) that stuff is dim no matter what you do.
    LED’s ftw.

  2. It’s a bit too commercial to me, 3/4 of the video showing off ready-made products. The first 1/4 is veryh informative though. I had an EL equalizer shirt with the inverter in a similar plastic enclosure until my girlfriend decided it needed to be washed… hot! Now it only looks like a firefly was squished onto it.

    1. @hacky I had a similar problem.

      It seems that the interconnects fail over time, mine lasted one evening and failed.

      I had some success getting the segments to work on their own but sadly short lived.
      Was trying to make a matrix display but it turned out to be far more of a pain than first thought.

  3. Okay… Knowledge (and time to Google) approaches zero, but don’t CFL bulbs use both high frequency and AC voltage? Could the circuit boards from dead bulbs be used to power EL wire?

  4. is it me of can you hear the noice of the power suply thing when it is hookt up to the photoframe
    i dont wand than noice in my room.
    it look or hear as the same noice as a foto flash noice

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