Electroluminescent Wire, also called EL Wire, is a copper cable coated in a reactive paint. By forcing electricity to jump through the paint to conduct, the paint emits light and the wire glows. There are two factors in how bright the wire shines: frequency, and paint concentration. The more paint there is, often called a hi-brightness wire, the longer it lasts and brighter it can glow. The higher the frequency, the paint is activated more thoroughly and emits more brightly, at the cost of its lifespan.
EL Wires are powered by an inverter or driver, that supplies AC current to jump through the paint. They take a specific source voltage (generally 9v or 12v DC), and are designed for a certain length of wire. They are very delicate, and can easily break if given power without wire to light up.
This instructable will also be installing LED light strips on the underside of the bike chassis. Through a mix of green and blue LEDs and EL Wire, this mountain bike is going to look incredible. On my previous installs with EL Wire, I have received very positive reactions to the bike, including people asking for photos, and a $500 offer in the middle of the street to purchase my bike (Though it's worth more than that ;-D). This guide gets fairly complex, involving making a battery pack, soldering your EL Wires, creating a switchbox to control the lights, and mounting everything to your bike. I hope you have as much fun following this guide as I do riding my bike.
All of the parts cost me about $130, and putting everything together took three days of work. The project is semi-complicated though very time consuming, but is suitable for those with even minor soldering experience.
Step 1: Parts
Soldering Iron ($12): A 15 Watt iron from Radioshack.
0.022" Silver Rosin Core Solder ($4): Lead-based solder with embedded flux, makes quick, solid connections and melts rapidly, Radioshack.
Needle-Nose Pliers ($6): One of your most important tools.
Knife/X-Acto Knife ($4): Needed for stripping wires and cutting connections.
Power Drill (~$80 w/ Cord): We only need to drill a few holes through plastic, it doesn't need to be powerful.
Drill Bits ($20 for 20 bits @ Lowes): I have a Black & Decker Drill Bit set of various sizes from 1/32" to 1/2".
Ruler/Level ($10): Needed for measuring off parts. I use both standard (imperial) and metric units in this guide as needed.
Hacksaw ($15): For cutting PVC pipe. You could also use a PVC pipe cutter if you have one.
Hot Glue Gun ($5-15): I use a "Professional" heavy duty super-glue gun, since I use a ton of the stuff. You can also use a hobby gun.
Hot Glue Sticks (Bag for $4)
Multi-Meter ($10-50): This lets me test the voltages of connections, along with measuring conductivity between wires, an extremely helpful and sanity-saving tool.
12 feet Blue and 16 feet Green EL Wire ($42 @ $1.50/foot): 2.5mm, Hi-Bright Long-Life Standard wire.
Fish Driver+ 1 (#DF1) ($8.00): Measured for 2-35 feet of EL Wire running at 12 volts.
1x Quad Connectors ($2.25): Allows four lengths of EL wire to connect to the driver.
Copper Foil Tape ($0.00 for 3 feet): Free, Coolneon.com offers free copper tape to customers (Be reasonable, three feet is a ton). If you don't want to buy through coolneon.com, on eBay it is cheap, and it is also available in craft and gardening stores (apparently it keeps snails from climbing over the rim of pots).
8x Connectors Driver Side ($4.00): Similar to a quick disconnect, it allows you to easily connect EL wires to the inverter.
8x Connectors Wire Side ($4.00)
Wire ($0-20): We're going to need a lot of raw wire to complete this mod. If you've got a spool that's great, another good substitute is speaker wire, and one of my favorites is ethernet cable, since one cable has eight different-colored wires inside of good strength.
From eBay (Seller WinterLamLam)
1x PVC 120cm Green LED Strip ($8.97 inc. shipping): One LED per cm, this has 120 green 5mm LEDs covered in a flexible PVC rubber coating.
1x PVC 72cm Blue LED Strip ($5.58 inc. shipping)
Battery Pack Parts
4x 3/4" PVC Plugs ($2): These are made for PVC Plumbing pipe, but we are going to use them in a pipe they are not made for, a 1" Electrical Conduit pipe. As a result, we must file them down. They will hold the springs for containing the batteries, along with being a waterproof seal.
1x 1" Electrical Conduit PVC Pipe (Grey, $2): This is sturdier than standard white PVC, along with being higher quality materials and less scruffed up than most PVC in stores. It looks nicer as well, along with fitting our C batteries almost perfectly due to it's thicker walls.
Scrap Wire ($0-20): I already had some leftover 16AWG speaker cable (I used about 6 feet for this guide) from installing my home theater. Any large amount of flexible wire will do, another good option is computer cables with a ton of pins (like SCSI/Parallel), since they have very large, fluffy, electrical shielding.
Zip-Ties ($5): A small bag (20x) of 11" Zip-Ties to hold the battery pack to the bicycle's Seat Tube.
4x Battery Pack Springs ($4): Ripped out of a 4 C Battery Pack. Four medium-sized, fairly weak springs. If you can find stronger springs (Mag-Lite D Battery style), do so.
9v Snap on Connectors (Bag for $4): For our major connection points.
12x C 9000mAh NiMH Rechargeable Batteries ($20): Ultra-high capacity C batteries. Each battery is 1.2 volts, we need 10 to reach 12v. Many different sellers on eBay, just search "C battery 9000mAh".
Universal Smart Charger 7.2-12v NiMH ($28): A very good automatic battery charger, works with any capacity up to 12 volts. From seller DahanBay.
Carlon PVC Type C 1/2" Electrical Conduit Box ($3): This is the body of the switchbox.
1/2" PVC Plug ($0.40): Holds the 9v Snap-On connector.
1/2" PVC Electrical Conduit Adapter ($0.40): A nice port to feed wires into the box.
3x On/Off Toggle Switches ($4.50): They turn things on, then off, then possibly on again.
Heat-Shrinking (Optional) (Huge box for $20 on eBay (115pcs 5 Size Kit From eBay's Tubing-Express)
Though it's optional, I strongly recommend this process if you have the available heat shrink. Since I like my wiring to look nice, and not have the bike be covered in copper, silver, green, blue, red, and black wires, I'm covering every inch of wire on the bike in heat-shrink tubing. This not only protects it, but it looks nicer and increases resistance to the elements. I made use of the sizes 1/8", 3/32", 1/4", and 1/2". Upon finishing the bike, I have used an enormous amount of heat-shrink in the wiring for this project. I find the cost and effort to be worth it, though it is not mandatory.