DIY GLOWING BUBBLE LIGHT - How to Make Your Own Futuristic Desk Light!




About: Hello and welcome! My name is Austin. I enjoy creating interesting projects and sharing my projects and ideas with all of you. Please feel free to check out my Youtube channel:

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In this video, we will be building a one of a kind futuristic desk light. Not only is this light unique and cool to look at, but the air bubbles make quite a relaxing sound. Let’s get started with the build!

Step 1: Watch the Video!

Before you go through the rest of the steps for this build, you should definitely watch the video that I have posted above. The video will go through the entire build in depth and also show you what the finished light looks like! Also, if you enjoy the video you should definitely hit the like button or even consider subscribing to my YouTube channel. Most importantly don't forget to follow me here on my Instructables page so that you can see all of my future projects!

Step 2: Parts List

The main parts needed for this project include:

-an air pump, as well as some airline tubing, an air stone, and a check valve (these parts can all be found at your local pet store)

-a small sheet of clear acrylic

-an A/C adapter (mine outputs 5V DC and 300 mA)

-a short piece of 2” ABS and a 2” connector

-a 21 LED ultraviolet flashlight or 15 UV LEDS

-a package of assorted highlighters

-a project box

-a rocker switch (125V 8A)

-15, 82Ω 1/4 W resistors

- a clear plastic tube (I got mine from an aquarium gravel vacuum, but you can also order tubes like this online)

The outer diameter of my clear tube is exactly 2” and it fits snuggly inside of the 2” ABS

Step 3: Determining the Resistors

Instead of having the LED flashlight be powered by batteries, I want it to be powered from an outlet. So I unscrewed the end of the flashlight and cut the plug off of the AC adapter’s cord, exposing the positive and negative wires.

In order to correctly power the LEDS with the AC adapter I will need to add an 82Ω resistor beneath each one of the LEDS. I have explained how I determined these resistor values in the video. But lets say you are going to try this for yourself and your AC adapter has a different output than mine does. This resistor calculator will calculate your resistor values for you. All that you need to know is your AC adapters output voltage (mine is exactly 5.1V), the LEDS forward voltage (3.5V), the LEDS forward current (20mA), and the number of LEDS in your array. I am only going to be using 15 of the LED’s rather than 21 because using 15 LED’s results in a total current draw of 300mA and that is all that the AC adapter that I am using outputs.

Step 4: Adding the Resistors

After determining the correct resistor values I could go ahead and start soldering them in beneath each of the LEDS. So I popped the circuit board out of the flashlight and began removing the LEDs. Once they were all removed I added 15 resistors into the negative slots and then soldered the LED’s back on like they were before. After I finished soldering everything back together I connected it to the AC adapter to ensure that everything worked properly.

Step 5: Building the Light

Now that I know that the LEDs can successfully be powered by the AC adapter, I can remove the casing to expose the circuit board that is inside. The positive and negative wires will need to be cut to fully remove the circuit board from the casing. We will come back to this part of the project shortly. For now, we are going to move on to the air pump.

The first thing I am doing is removing the four screws from the bottom of the pump so that I can see what’s inside. I’m going to need to trim down the casing of the air pump so that it can fit inside of the project box. I also removed the four rubber legs from the back plate before throwing it out.

There also needs to be enough room in the project box for the circuit board which we removed earlier.

Step 6: Building the Light

The next thing I had to do was mark out the spots onto my project box where I need to cut and drill in order for all of the components to be fastened inside of the box.

I started by marking out where I wanted the air hose to go through. I also marked out slots for the cable’s strain reliefs, the rocker switch, and then marked out where I was going to drill holes for the rubber legs. After marking everything out, I cut out all of the slots and drilled out the holes. Before I begin fastening all of the components inside, I attached the four rubber legs. These legs are used to eliminate the vibrations created by the air pump.

Step 7: Building the Light - Wiring

I stuck the air pump in using hot glue and then I desoldered the positive wire. (make sure everything is UNPLUGGED because there is 120VAC being sent to the airpump) Then I soldered a short length of red wire onto the negative (neutral) terminal, and soldered a short length of black wire to the positive (hot) terminal. After that, I twisted another short piece of black wire onto the end. This twisted pair was then soldered to the middle terminal of the switch. The positive wire that we desoldered earlier is then soldered to the right terminal.

We can now wire in the circuit board from the AC adapter. The first thing that I did was desolder the old positive and negative wires from the circuit board. The red negative wire and the black positive wire from inside the project box could then be soldered back to where the old wires were. The wiring is now complete and everything can be fastened inside of the box.

After a quick check to make sure that everything works, I could fasten the lid shut.

Step 8: Building the Light

Now that I am finished up with most of the wiring I can get started with the actual light. I am going to start off by using the 2” ABS as a stencil to trace a circle onto the sheet of acrylic. This circle needs to be cut out so that it will fit perfectly on top of the ABS and it will need to be glued into place. To be sure that the glue will stick I sanded the outer edge of the acrylic circle to roughen up the surface. I then glued the circle onto the pipe with waterproof glue and clamped it tightly into place until it was dry.

After this piece was dry I once again sanded around the edge of the acrylic circle as well as sanded the inside of the 2” connector. I glued the pipe into the connector using some all-purpose cement. This will create a water tight window for the LEDs to shine up through. I then cut the pipe so that there was only 1.5cm was hanging out of the connector. This piece now needs to be prepared so that the clear tube can be glued inside. So I went ahead and sanded the inside walls to create another rough surface. I then taped around the clear tube with painters tape leaving a 1/8” gap for the silicone to stick to and sanded the entire portion of the tube that was below the tape. I glued the tube into the pipe using waterproof silicone that is safe for aquariums. I also made sure that the silicone had excellent adhesion to plastic. The tape was then removed and I left it alone to dry for one day.

Step 9: Building the Light

Once the silicone was dry I thought that I would make the base of the light look a little more presentable. So I taped up the clear tube and sprayed the base black. To make sure that the tube would hold water without any leaks I filled it up with water and left it for about an hour. After knowing that my light will not leak I could move on and make a hole for the airline tubing. I made sure to drill the hole quite a bit smaller than the actual airline so that water would not leak out around the tubing.

After the hole was drilled I began pushing the airline up through the tube until it was at the top. This took quite a bit of time because the tubing was such a tight fit and it was hard to push it in through the hole. But once I had a bit of the tubing coming out of the top I added the air stone and then pulled the airline back down until the stone was right at the bottom.

Step 10: Building the Light

A hole now needs to be drilled into the bottom half of the connector just big enough for the wires from the AC adapter to fit through.

I will be using this expandable ½” braided sleeving to hide the wire and the airline tubing together. So I used the wire to measure out how much sleeving I would need. I then attached the check valve to the airline and fed it as well as the wire through the sleeving. I pushed the other end of the airline into the sleeving and attached it to the check valve once it was all the way in resulting in a much cleaner look.

Before I fed the wire through the hole that I had previously drilled I added some aluminum tape onto the inside walls of the connector. This will help the light from the LED’s deflect up into the clear tube. I then pushed the wires through the small hole and made a knot so that they could not get pulled out.

Step 11: Finishing the Light

After that I hot glued the end of the flashlight onto the bottom of the acrylic to hold the LEDs and then soldered the positive and negative wires to the circuit board. The LEDs could then be pushed snug into place.

And that’s it for the construction of the light! All that I have to do now is add some liquid.

Step 12: Making the Glowing Liquid

I will be using the assorted package of highlighters to make the glowing liquid for the light. First I removed the inner tubes of the highlighters that hold the dye and let them soak in cups of water for about an hour. Once the hour was up I squeezed out as much dye as I could and I was left with these very colorful liquids that will glow bright when exposed to the ultra violet LEDS.

The green definitely glows the brightest, and the blue doesn’t seem to glow at all.

Filling up the tube with water and then adding a ¼ cup of the highlighter solution is enough to make the light glow very bright. I am going to keep my highlighter solutions in water bottles so that I can switch the color of my light whenever I like.

Well that’s it for this build! I hope that you all enjoyed this instructable as well as the video. Don’t forget to follow me here on instructables, like, share, subscribe, and to stay creative!

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    30 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Nice Instructable. I wonder if it would work if they were RGB LEDs and the water was slightly clouded somehow so you could really easily choose what colour you wanted.

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    I was thinking the same thing. Maybe somehow using UV leds as well as RGB together!


    3 years ago

    This is great! You should really consider entering in a contest!

    4 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    I have entered this Instructable in the "Make it Move" contest :)


    Reply 3 years ago

    I voted for you! It looks like you spent a lot of time on this and you deserve to win! :)


    Reply 3 years ago

    Thank you very much! I will definitely consider doing that.


    3 years ago

    Oh my gosh, that is super cool!! Can't wait to make it!!!

    1 reply

    3 years ago

    Cool project! I was wondering why you needed to add resistors. Doesn't the flashlight already have it/them? Also, if you do need to add them can;t you use just one? The LEDs are in parallel, correct? Thanks for posting this - the video is great!


    3 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    Thank you! Yes, the LED's are connected in parallel. Using one resistor will work but there are some drawbacks. I originally tried this with one resistor and it did work, but after about a minute the resistor was so hot that I couldn't even touch it. I tried this with a 1W resistor and a 2W resistor.

    There is also the chance that your LED's will burn out when using a single resistor. When using one resistor, you have a current limit for the whole diode section. After that it's up to each diode to control the current that goes through it.

    The problem is that not all diodes have same characteristics and therefore there's a danger that the current will be divided unequally through them. What could happen is the diode with lowest forward voltage will conduct most of the current and it will wear out the fastest.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Resistors generate dissipate energy from the system by heating up, so using multiple resistors is better practice than one resistor that could generate so much heat you might have problems later. And LEDS are super super easy to burn out.......


    Reply 3 years ago

    Ok don't judge I suck at grammar and writing in general