Tritium Tesseract - HyperCube




About: I'm a content creator. I make open source projects and videos for said projects. My goal is to create free and open knowledge for everyone.

I've had this idea for awhile that involves designing a tesseract in the physical world, at least some type of representation of it. One of the things that comes to mind are the very cool infinity mirror style designs and shapes. In order for those to work they need to be brighter on the inside than they are on the outside. Since I want this to be a small object, able to be held in the hand, I knew it would be difficult to use electronics. I decided to use tritium vials as the light source! This is kind of a first version, a prototype. Its difficult to put together because glue is required. Future versions should be easier. If you want to make this versions, follow along, watch the video. You can reuse tritium vials in future versions if you decide to make those as well.

Safety Notice: Please be aware of and in accordance with the Laws and Regulations of your current residing country with regards to the handling/owning/working with tritium objects. While these vials are safe in their intact form, tritium can be a dangerous element in certain situations, so please be aware and handle with care.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Watch the Video

The video goes through the build process as well, if you prefer to learn that way!

Step 2: Get the Parts and Materials!

There aren't many parts to this one! Remember, if you get the parts from my shapeways link, you will be supporting my projects(I get a little off the top of the sale). If you have your own printer capable of printing this(most probably don't) feel free to print them yourself. Its thin, and likely wont work on FDM printers.



  • Thick Super Glue
  • Glue Gun and Hot Glue(maybe)
  • Table Saw or Something to Cut Acrylic
  • Laser cutter if you have one(I wish I did!) - instead of saw.
  • Ability to work with glue without getting finger prints all over acrylic.

Step 3: Cut the Acrylic to Size.

There are lots of ways to do this. You need to end up with

  • 6 - 20mm square pieces mirror acrylic
  • 6 - 56.5mm square pieces mirror acrylic

You could:

  • Use the DXF File provided and use a laser cutter(Highly recommended!)
  • Print out the PDF file and use a saw of some sort to cut it.
  • Have someone else cut it... etc.

I cut out the guidelines for the squares and used spray adhesive to stick them to the protected acrylic, then cut them out on a saw. This was tricky, and the result wasn't great. Thinner acrylic doesn't cut so well.

Step 4: Add Mirrors to Center Piece.

I was lucky enough to have my center cut pieces of mirror have a snug fit, so I omitted the hot glue. If you're not so lucky you will have to hot glue them into place. You will have to remove the protection pieces of plastic on the acrylic. The blue side, once removed, is the side that will be on the inside(glue side).

Step 5: Stick in Tritium Vials.

Now it is time to support the center piece(the one you just added mirrors to) in the middle of the larger frame. The tritium vials are the support. There are small friction fit holes for the vials on each corner of each 3D printed piece. The 3D printed pieces, because they are printed in SLS nylon, are nice and flexible. You will need to carefully flex the frame to get all of the tritium vials in place. I started with the bottom, then moved to the top. I don't think there is any right or wrong way to do this. Just because not to break the vials!

Step 6: Glue the Outside Mirrors.

This time you want the mirrors blue side on the outside. You will need to add a small amount of thick super glue to the rim of the mounting location. Take care to not get any strings inside of the case, or they will be visible later. I hate glue and gluing things, so future versions will likely be screwed down. It still worked out but its tedious and easy to get glue finger prints on everything!

Step 7: Thats It, Your Done!

Time to turn out the lights!

Step 8: Turn Out the Lights.

The tritium vials are already pretty dim, and in order for the effect to work, the light on the inside has to be brighter than the light on the outside. Turn off the lights and see the magically effect take place. I love that this doesn't require any batteries and will glow for a long time(10-15 years). It works!

Step 9: Support These Projects!

Lastly, if you enjoy my projects please check out and subscribe to my YouTube Channel. There, you will definitely find more projects to make.

If you really enjoy what I do, consider becoming a patron on Patreon. SeanHodgins on Patreon - My patrons directly influence my ability to continue to create these open source projects.

Thanks for viewing!

Optics Contest

Participated in the
Optics Contest

Be the First to Share


    • Book Character Costume Challenge

      Book Character Costume Challenge
    • Made with Math Contest

      Made with Math Contest
    • Cardboard Speed Challenge

      Cardboard Speed Challenge

    21 Discussions

    Dangerously Explosive

    11 months ago

    Nice project! I like the idea, but I think it would be slightly better if you used EL wire instead of tritium. I know that you would then need to add electronics, but you could also make cool effects depending on your control circuit. You could add a wireless charging circuit to it as well, and then you don't need any external ports other than an activation switch.

    I rather like the idea of making one of these with a metal rim on either side, which acts as a "bio-switch" to turn on the circuit (kinda like those annoying blinky tubes you see in novelty stores.)

    Then, it will look like an ordinary mirrored cube, but light up to show the magic within when somebody picks it up.

    Not to mention, it's a lot less expensive to get EL wire. You're looking at about $130 to get enough tritium tubes to do this, which is a lot of money for a trinket of this size.

    2 replies
    batcraveDangerously Explosive

    Reply 11 months ago

    My thoughts were similar - especially after seeing the price on the (admittedly nifty) tritium vials - except, instead of EL wire and having to deal with AC and fitting in an inverter, using LED filaments (as seen in "vintage"-style decorative bulbs, and available for $8.50/10pk on ebay). I figured it could all be run with a Digispark, Pico, or other tiny devboard packed inside the center cube with an accelerometer for control and a small LiPo cell or two for power.

    Of course, then I actually read the specs on the filaments, and discovered that they usually run at 70V @ 10-13mA each (although running it dimmed - for visual effect rather than room illumination - should be able to bring that down lower), and any method I can think of to pull that out of a couple LiPo cells is going to be just as bulky as the EL wire's inverter.

    I suppose an alternative would be to just accept the need for wires, plug it into the wall, crank the power on the filaments, and call it a lamp.

    Or make it using tritium vials and sit in the dark to play with it. Light is overrated anyhow.


    Reply 9 months ago

    Hello batcrave,
    i like the look but not the price :) i read your answer and want to share my ideas.
    the tubes:
    to reproduce the exact same glowing effect you could use a hollow plexi-glass tube and coat it inside with glue+ "fluorescent Luminous Glow in the Dark powder"
    (1 bag is 10 grams for 1$ enough for several tubes on ebay)
    then attach a UV-Led(400nm cheap around 10-20pcs ~1-2$) to fit inside the tube.
    (1 led per tube so 8 are needed)
    The build can be done with several types of leds depending on your desired size
    5mm , / 3mm or a 1206/805-smd Led
    If you select the plexiglas tube (pmma/acrylic) to fit the led size its practical.
    Last step is the electronics, which can be as easy as a 1 resistor only :D
    or a PWM circuit with smd components (555timer for example).

    The last part is the powersource,
    which can be stored in the middle (that little cube in the center).
    For small builds a possible power source would be 2 silver oxide batteries in stacked parallel
    they can last very long if you take only 1 milliampere per Led
    With a pwm circuit this current could be reduced by the factor of 10-20
    If you make the Build slightly bigger other batterytypes cloud be used too like 2 small lithium polymere batters from (~1nche sqaure size)

    Another idea is you could store AAA(micro batteries) inside the outer frame tubes
    so there is a huge powersource of 8-12 AAA-Batteries xD
    or even better i found
    they aren't much more expensive on ebay. but thinner in diameter

    then the light tubes can also be bigger in diameter so its design looks harmonic.

    let me know what you think of my suggestions. :

    Tesseract 4D2

    11 months ago

    Username relevant!

    I love hypercubes, cool project!


    11 months ago

    This is really cool. Thank you for sharing.


    11 months ago

    This is Awesome !!! I love it ! voted


    Tip 11 months ago

    It looks like you put the reflective coated side of the acrylic facing out. While this looks pretty cool there are 2 advantages to doing it the other way (facing in). 1) The coating is usually fairly delicate and while it wont wipe off, it can be easily scratched. 2) With the coating on the inside you will get better internal reflection as the light will bounce directly off the reflective surface and not have to travel through the acrylic twice between each reflection. This should have the effect of making the reflections appear to "go deeper".


    Tip 11 months ago

    It would be cool to make a one-time use version with glow sticks for all the edges with 3D printed connectors...


    11 months ago

    Very cool, clean, easy to follow build! Nice!


    11 months ago

    Might be interesting to use those yellow led fillaments they use in old fashioned faux incandescent bulbs. You can buy the led fillaments for a few cents each on eBay, but as they each require 3V, the entire tesseract might need to run on 24v. Maybe a tesseract desk lamp maybe...


    11 months ago on Step 9

    I agree with others on the tritium, but love the results! If you use the el wire, you can hide the circuit inside the small inner cube with a small pouch lion cell. make the trigger circuit with a motion switch to activate it. Another idea would be make it bigger of course so you can fit it all using a small atmel ucontroller to flicker the el wire etc. Many options :) Thanks for submitting...


    11 months ago

    ATTENTION, Tritium-based objects are prohibited in some countries (France for example), and subject to restrictions of use in many others.
    The possession and use of Tritium is not without danger.

    Studies all over the world have shown that these non-recycled objects present in landfills, caused contamination beyond authorized levels ...
    This is the kind of product to prosquire for any project, especially that their provenance does not guarantee the safety of people and the environment where they are produced ... Anyway they are prohibited from importing in many countries ...

    3 replies

    Reply 11 months ago

    As with everything, know your countries laws and regulations and operate within them.


    Reply 11 months ago

    "when encapsulated" is the key phrase that undercuts your argument for the safe usage of this by the general public.


    Reply 11 months ago

    Tritium presents no external beta radiation threat when encapsulated in non-hydrogen-permeable containers due to its low penetration depth, which is insufficient to penetrate intact human skin. ... The primary danger from tritium arises if it is inhaled, ingested, injected, or absorbed into the body.


    11 months ago

    Awesome build! i've been tryin to make something similar but it's kind of wonky without perfect mesures, so a 3d printer must be nice :p
    Love the build! Do tritium tubes exist in other colors?

    3 replies

    Reply 11 months ago

    Yes, but blue and green tend to be the brightest and last the longest. I personally prefer blue :)


    Reply 11 months ago

    I had them printed at Shapeways because my printer is precise enough to print the thin frame. It requires an expensive SLS printer.


    Reply 11 months ago

    Follow the link included, 9 colrs available.