Instructables

The Full "How To" Manual For EL (Electroluminescent) Wire

FeaturedContest Winner

Disclaimer : This is my First Instructable. I appreciate any constructive criticism and helpful advice. Now any of you who just ramble on about “I’m just in it for the money” or “You misspelled instruction” or “He’s trying to control the world” just leave me be and we'll be just fine. (Ok, the World Domination may be true.)

Now I don’t claim to know that I am the end all knowledge on EL wire but I have done my research before I bought anything, plus, I have compiled what it’s made of, what makes it work, some history, and helpful tips to help you out. So let's get started.

 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: What is EL Wire?

Picture of What is EL Wire?
Electroluminescent wire (often abbreviated to EL wire) is a thin copper wire coated in phosphor, which glows when an alternating current is applied to it. It can be used in a wide variety of applications- vehicle and/or structure decoration, safety and emergency lighting, toys, clothing etc - much as rope light or Christmas lights are often used. Unlike these types of strand lights, EL wire is not a series of points but produces a 360 degree unbroken line of visible light. Its thin diameter makes it flexible and ideal for use in a variety of applications such as clothing or costumes.

EL wire's construction consists of five major components. First is a solid-copper wire core. This core is coated with phosphor. A very fine wire is spiral-wound around the phosphor-coated copper core. This fine wire is electrically isolated from the copper core. Surrounding this 'sandwich' of copper core, phosphor, and fine copper wire is a clear PVC sleeve. Finally, surrounding this thin, clear PVC sleeve is another clear, colored translucent, or fluorescent PVC sleeve.

An electric potential of approximately 90 - 120 volts at about 1000 Hz is applied between the copper core wire and the fine wire that surrounds the phosphor coated copper core. The wire can be modelled as a coaxial capacitor with about 1 nF of capacitance per foot, and the rapid charging and discharging of this capacitor excites the phosphor to emit light. The colors of light that can be produced efficiently by phosphors are limited, so many types of wire use an additional fluorescent organic dye in the clear PVC sleeve to produce the final result. These organic dyes produce colors like red and purple when excited by the blue-green light of the core.


Thanks to Wikipedia and Electronics Warehouse for information.
(Picture credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EL_wire )
1-40 of 52Next »
jhawthorne4 months ago

Where did you get those connectors. I've been searching for the same type but keep striking out.

Just some clarification regarding parallel vs series. There are actually three ways to hook multiple strands up to one supply(inverter).
1. Parallel end to end....in which the core of the second is connected to the end of the core of the first and angel hairs of second connected to the end of the angel hairs of first. This is the way to connect them end to end. There is no series end to end. Parallel rules apply here
2. Parallel side by side....in which all strands have their cores and angel hairs connected to supply. All cores connected together and all angel hairs connected together. Parallel rules apply here
3. Series side by side....in which the cores of some strands would connect to angel hairs of other strands. like putting batteries in series the + and - of the ones in the middle connect together. Only two strands would connect directly to supply. This is the only way series rules would apply.
dan5jr2 years ago
They are. His logic is close, but a little off base. If you run them in series, you'll experience a voltage drop across each one, meaning that there will be less current running through each wire and will be slightly dimmer.
maboyco2 years ago
here are some pictures that might make your instructable a bit clearer

http://www.neonstring.com/index.php?tasket=solder
joehudy3 years ago
y cant you just conect the 2 termanals to a 9v batterie
hayedid joehudy3 years ago
A 9V batter is DC. EL Wire requires AC current. You can get an inverter by looking up 'el wire' on ebay
joehudy hayedid3 years ago
y cant thay make them dc? sory if im buging you .
hayedid joehudy3 years ago
No problem. DC is a constant voltage. So, 9v is 9v. AC alternates between 110 and -110 at a rate of 60 times per second. It is this alternation of current that causes the wire to glow. In fact, up to a point, the glow or brightness increases as you increase the Frequency (is changing from 60 to 1000 hz). Some circuitry works with DC voltage, some with AC voltage -- this just happens to be one of the AC gadgets. An inverter, from eBay or some other place, will allow you to run the EL wire from a 9 volt battery by converting the DC to the required AC voltage and frequency. Some of the inverters include flashing circuitry so read the descriptions carefully before you buy.
lehelex hayedid2 years ago
DC= Direct Current. AC= Alternating Current.
joehudy hayedid3 years ago
thank you sooo much
MTJimL3 years ago
Is it my imagination, or does each successive length of EL wire show dimmer than the previous one?
I think so too.
UkuleleGuy3 years ago
Could you list a few of these Internet shops that sell inverters?
ebay --- lookup 'el wire' or 'el panel'
Thanks!
From the photos it is hard to see how you use the copper tape.

Are you using the copper tape (with the adhesive on also it is used to do stain glass projects) around the center copper wire?

Or, are you using it for the Angel wire which goes around the coated Copper wire?

could you please send or show a little clearer photos with the different wires "ID'ed" or how you used the copper tape.

Please understand I had worked in the electronic field a long time ago (before LED's were commonly used mid 1970's) and I been out of doing any electronic work or building stuff like this since the early 1990's when I became disabled and I am way out of practice.

Thanks

Krisy
Have you yet found your answer Krisy? If not, I'll try to answer your question--though I'm not the Instructable's author.

Being fragile, the angel wire must be soldered so it will not flex coming out of the solder glob. Cut the strip of copper sheet/tape shorter than the heat tubing or tape already in place around the soldered inner wire and the phosphor coating. If the angel wire and copper sheet/tape are not already tinned, do so now.

Lay a paper clip over the shrink tubing already in place to provide an air gap and heatsink under the copper tape. Place the small patch of copper tape--adhesive side toward the paper clip--and position the angel wire over the copper tape. Go ahead and make the solder.

Remove the paper clip and wrap the copper tape around the heat tape already in place. Now place another piece of heat tape around the whole joint and shrink it in place.
crapflinger3 years ago
hopefully you're still checking comments or someone else passes by with an answer

if you were doing something (like making a helmet or whatever) that needed several different "locations" of E.L. wire (like different designs in between non-lit spaces) the typical suggestions that i've seen is to just "bury" the parts you don't want visible behind whatever you're mounting the wire to/in/on. to maximize your purchase of wire, would it be a safe assumption that you could cut the wire into the necessary final lengths to make each individual design, and then bury the connecting wire instead of wasting lit wire?

if one were to do something like this, would it be best (from a brightness standpoint) to wire the connector wires back to the controller in series or parallel? assuming that the total length of all the wire used is within the specs of the controller.

would the added lengths of connecting wire decrease the brightness of each separate length? what would be a suggested gauge for the connecting wire (i typically like to use pretty small gauge solid core wire, like CAT6 for anything that i can get away with)?
Pyrotect (author)  crapflinger3 years ago
Sorry for the late reply. I would be better for them to be in series and all the same color (same resistance, power requirments.) As for seperating the EL you could do it be that is alot of soldering (or Fail points) the another option could be split the design in half (like the brain) wire both halfs seperately with different power supplies and then tie them to one switch. This would increase the current being used by the EL without having parts diming that others. Sounds like a neat project. Please feel free to ask more question and post a link when you are done.

P.S. if your good with a BCD counter you could try having the different designs "twinkle" at different rates.
well, i have no idea what a BCD counter is but that sounds neat...

i'm not terribly worried about all of the soldering, or the solder joints as most of this stuff will end up embedded in plastic and not out in the open.
MrLouque3 years ago
Great ible! How do you solder them to look like the last picture ( 4 separate wires coming off one driver)?
Pyrotect (author)  MrLouque3 years ago
They came that way but if you run 4 setups to one "power" plug
kindrudekid4 years ago
can u temme any site which will ship to india or any place from india?
EBAY
where do u live?
mumbai,,,
i live in chennai will be comming to mumbai around 20th sept
so u have EL wire with USB? wat are the cost... can u post a link to ur ebay.in account or anything similar
i dont have anything !
Pyrotect (author)  kindrudekid4 years ago
I dont know. if nothing else find a relelitive that is in a place that they do send and have them repost it to you. (I claim no respondsibility for violating customs laws, embargos, or local rules)
Kroner784 years ago
Anyone know how energy efficient it is? Also what are the wave lengths of the untinted phosphors? I'm thinking if I might be able to use it as a grow light for a living wall window farm kind of affair!
Pyrotect (author)  Kroner784 years ago
I believe it is above 90%. it would work very well as a light stick style of lighting effect.
ourmoneypit4 years ago
This was a good primer, thanks. Now it has me wondering: could the components needed be obtained small enough to make a glowing dog collar for an 80-lb dog? We like to use glow necklaces at the cottage to keep track of our two in the dark, but it'll get pricey once we live there full-time. We bought strobe tags, but once the dogs aren't facing us, they aren't visible. Seems to me EL wire on a collar would be just the thing we need.
Pyrotect (author)  ourmoneypit4 years ago
Although there is a competing instructables that does just that (http://www.instructables.com/id/El-Wire-Dog-Collar-Leash/) i would hate to run you off (VOTE FOR MEEEE.) This is what i would do. buy a cheap but strong collar (double amounts as needed per dog), EL wire (plus 10% for slop) Inverter (they sell a button battery one at thatscoolwire.com) and a sleave of clear pliable plastic (kind of like rubber sheeting but thicker) Buckle the collar at the tightest point. measure lenght. cut EL (if you have a design plan that in). test wire. sew to collor (use heavy thread like 550 cord inards and in many places. dont want woofy getting caught on something and ripping it off). place EL collor on plastic. seal collor in plastic (dogs get wet and dirty. would kill the wire plus water and electonic dont mix). If i had more than one dog I would color code the collars but remember that EL is bright but not from a long distance so doubling up the colors would increase the light.
Really what I'm thinking of is a temporary night-time collar for when we have campfires, go for moonlight snowshoe treks, walks in the dark, etc. rather than a full-time collar with EL wire. Something like a glow necklace, but that we can turn on and off at will, that goes on and off easily, on top of their usual collar. You have given me a great idea, though, with the 'seal in plastic' comment. No worries, I won't have time to get it done for the contest, so you have my vote. We've already gotten into the habit of color-coding the dogs...it helps to know who is who, so you know who is trying to sneak off or mooch food.
Pyrotect (author)  ourmoneypit4 years ago
With EL i is a more peranent than a light stick. For a just git it done i guess you could loosly wrap it around the dog several times like a second collar and tie the bands to itself but thats your call. please ask if you want any feedback from me. Cheers
all the components you need are the wire and the inverter (plus all the crap you have to add to connect them per the instructions found in this instructable), and many of the links the author has provided sell inverters small enough to fit on a dog collar.
Excellent! Thanks much!
Minor spelling correction. "How To" should be spelled with one "o".
Pyrotect (author)  lordironwulf4 years ago
I sad i like hellp so tank you. (sp) Ha Ha
1-40 of 52Next »