DIY Glow in Dark Tape

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About: "Dreams are not those that we see while sleeping, dreams are those that don't let us sleep"-APJ Abdul Kalam

From Fireflies to Glow Worms and from Scorpions to magnificent looking Jellyfishes, nature has beautifully implemented the phenomenon of 'Bioluminescence'.

Similarly, we have implemented the use of luminescent materials all around us in various ways. From using Phosphorescent materials in the discovery of cathode rays, to using Radioluminescence in the dials of our watches and clocks using materials like tritium!!

While making this Instructable I was surprised to see just how much we use the materials that 'Glow In the Dark'!! So, through this instructable I would like share what I have learned about the phenomenon of 'Luminescence' while also walking you through any easy process of making your own custom Glow in The Dark Tape which can be used in various situations like marking your stairs so you can use them even in the dark or using it to make your keyboard light up in the dark without buying backlit keyboards!! The applications our never ending, so its time to get creative and begin creating :D

Step 1: About the Glow in Dark Powder

One of the most common devices that implement the use of luminescence, specifically 'Photoluminescence', are the cathode ray monitors and TVs which shoot electrons on a screen made of 'phosphors' that glow and we get to see a picture. Phosphors are compounds which absorb energy that excites their electrons to higher energy levels. These electrons slowly come back to their original state while releasing the absorbed energy in the form of visible light (The process is a bit more complicated process than this but this is the basic principle involved). This process can take anywhere from 4 to 6 hours, depending on the phosphor compound used and this is known as phophorescence which is a special case of photoluminescence.

This project makes the use of Glow in Dark Powder which is made by a phosphor, most commonly Zinc Sulphide, and some additives to give different colors. These glow in the dark powders work on the same principle explained above.

While buying a glow in dark powder for this project, just keep in mind that they need to absorb energy for glowing and that amount of energy may vary for different colors. Generally, light with a smaller wavelength(or more energy) than the wavelength of the color of light given out by the powder works best. Since a blacklight emits UV radiation and it is higher in energy than all the colors in visible region, it works for all colors. But if you don't have a blacklight there is no need to worry :D Normal lights would work too but the best results might be obtained with green/aqua glow in dark powder.

Step 2: The Materials Needed

1) Glow in Dark Powder (I ordered 10 grams each of 5 colors: Blue, Aqua, Green, Yellow and Orange)

2) Transparent Nail Polish

3) Thin Double Sided Tape

4) Any color Pastel Sheets(I used Black)

5) Designs for your tape

6) Acrylic Paints and Paint Brushes

NOTE: When you receive your glow in dark powder, you can test it in a fun way either by taking your phone with the flash on and moving it over the powder to see a glowing trail of the path traced by your flash on the powder or you can set your phone screen to highest brightness level and open any black and white image of a star or something else(just not a too crowded image) and place it over the surface of the powder to make a sort of light stamp!! :D (Look for images above)

NOTE: I found that the blue glow in dark powder took much more time to absorb enough energy to glow than the other color as it is on the higher energy level in the visible spectrum while the green and aqua gave best results with least efforts. On the other hand the yellow and orange colors also started their glow with absorbing some energy in little time but the glow was somewhat dull in comparison to the green and aqua ones.

Step 3: Making the Glow in Dark Paint

The process of making the Glow in Dark Paint is pretty easy and straight forward. You just need a medium to which you could mix the Glow in Dark pigment. The medium can be oil-based like the ones used in oil painting. Some powders are also coated so they can also be mixed in water.

I tried creating the paint by using acrylic paint and transparent nail polish as the medium and got the best results with the transparent nail polish mainly for two reasons:

1) The transparency in the medium allows more light to be absorbed in the powder.

2) The main problem with the acrylic was that you could see all the brush strokes very clearly when the paint started to glow. Due to its thickness the nail polish allowed a uniform glow all over without creating visible brush strokes.

The amount of glow given by the paint depends on the ratio of the powder added to that of the medium. More concentrated mixture of the glow in dark powder gives more glow.

For creating the paint, the medium was added to the glow powder so I could get the amount of glow I want. The powder did not immediately mixed with the nail polish and after mixing formed a sort of paste having a slightly more thickness than normal nail polish. For some other applications the nail polish medium might not be the best choice as it will be difficult to apply on larger areas.

NOTE: Use the paint immediately after preparing.

Step 4: Making the Tape

For making the designs for the tape I just drew them on a strip of black pastel sheet.

After drawing and painting the designs I applied a coat of the glow in dark paint over it and then stuck strips of double sided tapes behind it side by side. After that I applied a layer of cello tape over the front side of the tape to prevent dust and dirt from sticking over it.

Instead of drawing you could print out any picture of your choice(preferably on glossy sheet) and apply the paint over it or you could also use the paint on any piece of fabric or any other pre-designed papers like wrapping paper and choose the medium for your paint accordingly. You can also make stickers instead of making long strips for making a tape. That completely depends on your imagination and how much you want to experiment !!

The Tapes I made:

1) The first one I made was just a pattern of moon, stars and planets. I first drew them on a strip of black pastel sheet and painted them green. Then I used the green glow in dark paint and applied over it. The end result for this was really amazing!!

2) For the second one I made a floor marking tape which I could use at my home on my stairs to mark the way. I simply drew alternating yellow and black arrows on a wider strip than before and then applied yellow glow in dark paint over the yellow ones. The yellow glow in dark powder was somewhat dull in comparison to the green one.This could issue might be resolved by applying more than one coat of the glow in dark paint but I had run out off my yellow pigment :|

3) For the third one I wanted to make a pattern of some lightning and electric arcs so I decided to draw some plasma balls giving out electric arcs which I painted blue. For this one I mixed the aqua and blue glow in dark powder with the aqua more in ratio and applied it on the arcs. Since I am not that good at drawing (but it is fun so I did it by myself anyway :P) the end result might not look like electric arcs but the pattern do looks amazing while glowing!!

4) For the fourth I just made a thin strip and painted it all green and then applied green glow in dark paint all over it. Then I wrote letters like W, A, S and D with black paint on it so I could use them on my keyboard and I also made labels for the various switches in my room which control appliances like fans and lights the same way.

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