Intro: How to Make Glowing Mushrooms
Hello, my name is Colin and I want to show how I make these awesome glowing mushrooms. Some background: I've always enjoyed glow-in-the-dark and bioluminescent effects, but it wasn't until a few years ago that I started actually making things that glow. I had received a small amount of blue phosphorescent paint and a UV laser from a project I backed on a crowdfunding site. Mind blown. This set me on a dark but luminous path of high intensity phosphorescent powders, laser effects, electroluminescent lights, and some fiber optics.
In this intsructable I will show some techniques and briefly cover the materials I use to achieve the various desired bioluminescent effects.
The pictures were captured on my Nokia Lumina 950 and haven't been edited or PhotoShopped or whatever the kids do these days.
Step 1: Intended Effect?
It is worth noting that phosphorescent powders have their limits. While some powders can be quite brilliant others can be dull. Do you want it to glow for a long time or fade quickly for a neat color change effect. Do you want your mushrooms to be in groups, have leds, or just hanging around the house plants.
Step 2: Materials I Used
what you'll need:
- Hot plate
- Pot for heating water
- Cold water bath
- Moldable plastic
- I use a product called ThermoMorph®
- Glow powder
- I obtain my glow powder from UnitedNuclear.com. It is europium doped strontium aluminate phosphorescent powder. Yikes. *It is the brightest I can find*
- Optional: fiber optics, colored powders, fluorescent material (like fluorescein) , leds, Lego, even magnets are a fun addition!
*I suggest having a UV light handy during this project.
Step 3: Make It
This project is very easy and repeatable so let's get to it. With a pot of water on, set your hot plate to its low-medium setting to bring the water to 60⁰c. While the water is heating up choose the color/s you'll be using for your mushroom. When the water is hot enough pour some of your moldable plastic into the pot. When the pellets turn from white to clear remove them with tongs. *CAUTION DO NOT BURN YOURSELF* Seriously, just wait a second or two so you don't scald yourself with melting plastic!
The amount of glow depends almost entirely on the amount of glow powder you use. So load it up. Knead the glow powder into the plastic quickly. Most glow powders don't do well with water, so this process needs to be quick so you don't have to put unmixed powder and plastic back in the pot which could weaken the glow. Once thoroughly mixed there should be no problem remelting the plastic. You will notice that after you have added the glow powder reheating the plastic will make your pieces glow.
If you want multiple colors or effects you can experiment with how you mix the powders and plastic. Remember to have fun with it.
I suggest setting aside multiple pieces of plastic once you've added the powder you desire so the shaping process will go smoothly.
Step 4: Shape It
What is your favorite mushroom? Crazy psychedelic? Bioluminescent, or something a Smurf can live in? As you can see I've made a few using different colors, powders, and inside bits. *Note that all of mine use the basic plastic and glow powder materials with which I added various mods to satisfy my curiosities. The simplicity of materials and endless options gives this project the ability to be very personalized.
Most mushrooms consist of a stem and a hood or bell or whatever. Some have gills under the bell and some have a ''skirt'' on the stem. Look up some pictures on the interwebs and find one that works for you.
As you begin shaping your mushroom use the cold water bath to help ''freeze'' your mushroom quickly before it droops. Quickly dipping the plastic back in the hot water can smooth edges or give the chance for more details to be added.
The gills seen under the mushroom's hood was made using a 3Doodler pen and glow plastic.
Step 5: Finish It
I typically shape the cap and stem separately then attach them together after a few seconds in the hot water. When you are satisfied with your glowshroom's shape carefully submerge it in the cold water bath to 'freeze' up the plastic. Check out what you made! If you want to add some detail or smooth things out just use some hot water. A heat gun will also work but its a pain in the neck.
The mushrooms I made in this instructable are purple and white and blue and white with green gills.
The blue and white swirl glowshroom has fiber optics and a neodymium magnet base. The glow powder is strontium based and glows a nice bright blue. The colors I used in the plastic are a blue and white mica powder I had from another project.
The triple glowshroom has 6mm thick sideglow fiber optics in each stem. The glow is strontium based orange and blue. I used blue and white mica powder in the plastic. The orange is from the type of orange glow powder I had at the time.
The quadruple glowshroom has 6mm thick side glow fiber optics in each stem. At the base I have three (3) Uv leds connected to a battery box with a switch. I used purple and blue on the caps and green for the stems. Notice how much the green drowns everything out. Something to consider when choosing color combos. Don't use a light source that generates too much heat. The previous quadshrooms I made melted off of my first project!
Step 6: Author's Notes
ThermoMorph or any other moldable plastic can be purchased online at the EBay for around $20 for 500g. The glow powder I use is about $15 an oz. Unitednuclear.com also has sample packs with different colors available. Unitednuclear.com is an awesome website with lots of neat items for sale. Its definitely worth a gander.
Fact of life: green will always be the ''brightest'' color. The human eyes see the color green better than most others, for this reason green glow powder is (in this case) the brightest and longest lasting(glow). Aqua is a close second. Then blue. I have tried orange, white and purple too. Orange is the quickest to fade. White is an amazing color and really gives an excellent glow. The purple from Unitednuclear.com is amazingly beautiful and one of my favorites. It is a bluish deep purple color that will leave you in awe. Having said that, although it is vivid, it is quite dim and fades rather quickly, though not as quickly as orange.
It is also worth mentioning that all these colors that I have used eventually fade to an aqua/green color after about an hour or two and will continue glowing, albeit dimming, without a light source for over 30hrs. Seriously, no joke, 30hrs. These things will cast shadows after you charge them!
Tips for a better glow:
Don't get it wet. Pat the plastic dry before thoroughly mixing. Most glow powders aren't coated for use in water so make sure you read the description of your glow product before you buy/use.
Glow powder, no matter the color, works best against a reflective surface. The moldable plastic gives a good white background to glow against, but adding colors via inks, dyes, or powders will affect the glow effect.
Use the right light:
Using the correct light will make all the difference. Florescent tube uv/black lights are excellent. If you want to make your own charging light with leds stay between 350-405nm. The sun works great! Try placing your mushrooms somewhere that gets good sunlight during the day( garden, windowsill, footpath, etc).
any questions, comments, or ideas are appreciated.