Introduction: Make Your Own EL Wire at Home

I loved all the Instructables entered in the EL wire contest, but since I really like to explore the science and engineering behind such beautiful creations, I thought I'd share how I made my own electroluminescent wire at home. You may have already seen some of my other hacks, like how I made transistors in my home chip fab, but I promise this will be much easier, and require no special equipment. If there is enough interest, I'll follow up with a video on building your own EL wire power supply. 


Ramesh Bhide (author)2016-12-09

Yes I have decided to try this project by using the fluorescence of blown domestic tube light as thisisthe cheapest source for amateurs and hobbyists Iam 72years Young from India - Pune Consulting Engineer [ Reverse Engineering since 1969 } and geophysicist. I am doubtful how many Indian NextGen are active on this site.

judeashly (author)Ramesh Bhide2016-12-11


KikiJ1 made it! (author)2016-05-29

I'm trying to repeat your homemade el-wire and I'm getting nothing.

First, I sprayed my core wire with clear paint, then wrapped with a tiny wire, painted on E6000, and pressed phosphors on. Not a thing. I wrapped a second wire over all that and tried to attach to that, and it didn't work either. Too much dielectric?

So I tried again using (sugar free) soda to adhere the phosphors (hey, learned that trick from a neon tube bender of 35 years experienced!) So I basically had only phosphors. I wrapped the tiny wire very carefully. Still nothing. I checked for shorts both times.

So then I stripped a piece of store bought el-wire and tried dragging my little wire up and down. It lights up only where the wire is, but - get this - it lights up in small contiguous patches, as if the phosphor glue had some conductance somehow.

Here's a YouTube video of the store bought el-wire test.

In unwrapping the tiny wire, much of the phosphors flaked off. It was pristine before. :)

Please let us know what you used to adhere the phosphors. It seems to be a critical piece.

("I made it!" requires a photo. Here's my coated wire before I wrapped the tiny wire around.)

KikiJ1 (author)KikiJ12016-05-29

I found this quote from this web page:

"The outer wire touches an extremely thin conducting film to produce the outer electrode so an "electric field" will be produced between the inner and outer wires."

That explains a lot.

Is there a thin conducting layer between the phosphor and the outer wire? If so, what is it?

sriprasad satapathy (author)2016-04-25

nice job...

emcelhannon (author)2010-08-21

You're very charming in the video, but I'll still look forward to the steps laid out in still shots and paragraphs. As far as probing for interest in building  power supplies, consider me rivited.
I cracked open some crts for the phosphors on the screen.  I think I might try spraying, dipping or rolling the wire with adhesives, and then sprinkling it with the phosophor powder.   Does anybody see problems that might make this a waste of time? Barring scoldings or warnings about the obvious dangers of broken glass and electricity)

snotty (author)emcelhannon2010-08-26

My chemist friend told me the lead and/or phosphors in a CRT will cause liver damage and health problems. Does anyone know more about this?

Luna__science (author)snotty2015-07-21

Just wear goggles gloves a respirator and one of those suits made if plastic the hazmat team uses and you'll be fine but you'll have to get someone to hose the suit down first before you take it off

-max- (author)snotty2011-07-26

i know phosphor isnt the best for the body, nor is mercury.

hpagan82 (author)2014-05-12

Definitely interested in learning how to make my own EL wire that be great.

Blazing_Joe (author)2013-11-21

Is it possible to to this on an iron bar? Instead of wires.

ManifoldSky (author)2013-11-14

I would expect the wire to have higher luminescence if you first coated the core with phosphor, let it dry, THEN wrapped the ground wire, thus placing the phosphor as part of the dielectric.

btadili (author)2011-11-09

its great , better to be inside fluo tube,will be great for writing :)

blinkyblinky (author)2011-09-22

This seems to be very high voltage...not my style...

Electronics Man (author)2011-07-24

Does it have to be AC? I have a small circuit that produces around 300 volts DC. would that work to power it?

-max- (author)Electronics Man2011-07-25

i mean no.

wrecche (author)-max-2011-09-06

:) Funniest comment ever.


*12 hours later*

I mean, No.


-max- (author)wrecche2011-09-06

haha, ok... now i confused myself... NO, dc wont work. YES, it needs to be AC. okay...

-max- (author)Electronics Man2011-07-25

Yes. Yoe can think of EL as a capacitor, and will only flick on for half a second if powered by DC.

-max- (author)2011-07-23

to drive the EL wire, you need a source of about 300V of high frequency AC.

radioburger (author)-max-2011-09-03

120 volts at 1000Hz works just fine.

Da7mi (author)2011-06-10

Where can i buy this phosphorus from?

joypad (author)Da7mi2011-07-29

get enough pee you can get it from there lol.

sweeety (author)joypad2011-08-19

challenge accepted.

joypad (author)sweeety2011-08-19


iongets (author)Da7mi2011-08-16

I thought fluorescent paint contained phosphor and will fluoresce , so why can't it be used here ? granted the paint is stimulated by ultraviolet light, but would it matter how it was stimulated.

-max- (author)Da7mi2011-07-25

Lowes, lighting section, flourescent tubes

Da7mi (author)-max-2011-07-25

But then, how can i choose colors?

-max- (author)Da7mi2011-07-25

i guess you dont. if you can find color tubes, your ether in luck, or the glass is tinted for the color

Da7mi (author)-max-2011-07-25

this does not seem to be the same material this chick is using. because her's is colored and hers is in liquid form while the inside of the tubes is powder. Maybe there is another source?

wolfkeeper (author)2011-08-01

I doubt it, she's a well known engineer, and I checked and what she says about EL wire is completely correct.

BobCat (author)wolfkeeper2011-08-02

You are correct.

zack247 (author)2011-07-21

wow, that is REALLY cool.
once i figure out where i can locally get the phosphor im gonna make some of this, EL wire can get expensive when you buy it, hopefully this would end up being cheaper.

do you just dip the wires in the phosphor or do you mix the phosphor with something and paint it on?

-max- (author)zack2472011-07-23

i think you can get phosper from fluorescent tubes but it's dangerous

zack247 (author)-max-2011-07-24

because of the mercury and the glass, right?
and i think theres a possibly harmful gas in fluorescent tubes as wel...

-max- (author)zack2472011-07-25

The mercury. Inside flouescent tubes is a few miligrames of mercury vapor, possibly argon, and a phospher coating inside. You won't get hurt by breaking a tube or 2, but prolonged exposure to mucury is bad.

zack247 (author)-max-2011-07-25

how would i get the phosphor coating off once i get the tube apart? a brush?

and is there any way to protect myself from the mercury other than not breaking the tubes?

-max- (author)zack2472011-07-25

doing it in a well ventilated area will help, and maybe a gas-mask. although not necessary for that little mercury. and dont cut yourself with the glass.

-max- (author)zack2472011-07-23

phosphor can be obtained from florescent lights, "some" neon lights CRT TVs, (the old tube tvs) and some Chinese websites

pkrouse (author)2011-06-10

This is exciting! Quick question: how did you stick the phosphors to the wire?

-max- (author)pkrouse2011-07-25

I Think you can make a paste with it, (watter and phosper) and paint a few coats on

lookwhatjoeysmaking (author)2011-07-21

sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo cool thats ausom

piratus (author)2011-07-21

nice !!
by the way did anyone tell you that you look like Alyson Hannigan ?!

Hugo Boom (author)2011-07-21

great instructable :D

prodigous (author)2011-02-03

You mentioned something about an experimenters kit for the EL phosphorous. I'm interested in trying this out. Where did you get the phosphorus?

cbpierce219 (author)2011-01-03

I grew up watching the Mr. Wizard Show on early TV. I think you could be the Ms. Wizard of your (digital) generation - keep up the good work!

robot797 (author)2010-11-16

how old are you i never have seen a girl like this kind of stuff

verry cool

ynneb (author)2010-11-14

What sort of length could you get out of this EL Wire?

Rhamkota (author)2010-08-20

120V seems like a lot wouldn't it trip the breaker because its just shorting out?

noingwhat (author)Rhamkota2010-10-26

Not at all, this actually acts more like an open circuit. The two wires are never supposed to make contact with each other. That is why it acts like a capacitor. There will still be a little bit of electricity that will make it through, but it definitely would not be enough to trip the breaker.

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