Instructables
This project uses electroluminescent wire (a.k.a. "EL wire") to create a glowing, flashing, spinning piece of eye candy that could be used as decoration, a disco light for a dance party, or just for taking cool photos. This is definitely a work in progress.... It started with some strands of EL wire that were leftovers from a project I took to Burning Man 2002 (the Jellyfish Bike -- but that's another story). I started to play around with this stuff to see what I could come up with. I ended up with some very interesting pictures. Folks on Make and Flickr started asking me how they were done, so here it is.
 
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Step 1: About EL wire

Electroluminescent wire (trade name LYTEC) is manufactured by Elam company of Israel. It's available from sources such as CoolLight.com, coolneon.com, and many others.

EL wire is thin and flexible, can be bent, wrapped or even sewn into clothing. It runs off of high-voltage, low-current, high-frequency AC, which is typically supplied by a battery pack with an inverter, also sold by the same companies. EL wire will eventually "burn out", depending on how hard you drive it. The wire itself has a central core coated with phospor, wrapped with two very tiny "corona wires".

My EL wire came in convenient 6-foot lengths from CooLight.com; each length came pre-soldered with a connector at one end and a non-conducting alligator clip at the other for securing the "tail" end of the wire to anything handy. EL wire can be soldered, it's a little tricky, but there are some good instructions here. The connectors can be any basic 2-conductor variety. Locking, hooded connectors are probably best, to reduce the risk of accidental shock. I got the connectors from CooLight, but it looks like these connectors from AllElectronics.com are pretty much the same thing.
lightdude16 years ago
What an awesome picture and effect. We have found if you are a person who understands el wire and can do all the work then ThatsCoolWire.com is the absolute best place we have found. What is even better this company has every kind of kit available which are already built for those of you who do not want to solder and all that. It gets better these guys will help you design your project for free over the phone.
awkrin6 years ago
nice.. pic 4 from step 8 offers a cool and interesting light effect.
To eliminate the woble, create a counterweight on the opposite side of the seam, by gluing a length of copper wire from top to bottom... and get rid of your counter weight system. Obviously you will need to try different gages of wire until you have something with the same weight as the seam. Your woble is caused by the fact your counterbalance does not properly counter the seam, and whatever other off-centered loads in the tube. Another method would be to add a counter balance at the top AND the bottom.... or a single countebalance at the center of gravity (making it hard to tune). Obviously if there are several off-center loads, you will have to counter each one to completely damp the vibrations... but once you do this, it will be in balance at all speeds.
RPisces7 years ago
This is a VERY interesting decoration. You should add some sort of VU meter circuit and sync it with the EL lights. That would be dazzling!!!
sardines4547 years ago
That's awesome!
gabi687 years ago
Can you tell me more about programing your microcontroller? What kind of board do you use for programing? THX
guerroloco (author)  gabi687 years ago
For this project I used a homemade board that a friend of mine put together. You don't really need much, just an IC socket for the stamp, voltage regulator if necessary, serial connector and power supply. www.parallax.com has schematics. They also sell programming boards for $50 or more.
coredumper8 years ago
in your original design with 45 ft or so of EL wire, what sort of life were you getting on (1) 9 Volt battery? Enough for over night? Is that why you went to (2)? Also, regarding your sequencer, why did you build a custom sequencer as opposed to the pre-hatched ones on Coolight? Were there some effecrs you wanted to do that the Coolight ones could not do? Thanks, /mario
guerroloco (author)  coredumper8 years ago
Hmm, i never tried it with only one battery -- I always used two of them in parallel, figuring they would last longer. The two batteries are good for about 8-10 hours, after that you get some serious dimming. As for the sequencer -- the "store-bought" versions generally either have predefined patterns, or a limited number of channels, or both. I wanted something programmable so I could use it for other projects. There are programmable multichannel sequencers for sale at various EL wire vendors, but they are often fairly expensive and/or bulky. Finally, I had a basic stamp and wanted to learn how to use it....
guerroloco (author) 8 years ago
OK I just added some short quicktime videos of the light (or whatever it is) in action.... Of course it looks much better in person.....
pheer8 years ago
how didi you make the power supply, i can never find plans for something like that...... i've been trying to make one like that and one that gets in excess of 300kv....if anyone has any plans or knows of any can you please inform me?
guerroloco (author)  pheer8 years ago
if you're talking about the power supply that runs the motor, that's just a converted PC power supply. There are numerous how-tos on doing that, including at least one on this site, if I'm not mistaken. If you mean the high voltage for the EL wire, it's 2 9v batteries connected to a small AC inverter. check out step #2 for the details. I don't know how you'd get 300KV & frankly I wouldn't want to......
xsmurf8 years ago
Very nice effect :D on a side note, since we're talking newb to newb, what did you use to drill the holes in your PCB? Did you have a dripp press?
guerroloco (author)  xsmurf8 years ago
no, i just used a #60 gauge drill bit -- the smallest they sell at my local hardware store -- in a collet on my dremel tool. sounds like it won't work, but I have a special technique. See my instructable here and check out step #10.
wagman458 years ago
seriously. this is probably THE coolest instructable i've seen yet. awesome
mutz8 years ago
Nice... ;) i was following your progress on flickr and i'm glad to see it here too anyway to find this el-wire? Did you buy it via internet or a local shop?
guerroloco (author)  mutz8 years ago
I got it from coolight.com several years ago. They seem to have the best prices, but other places sell it too. Just search for "EL wire" on google. Avoid the cheap chinese knockoffs.