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June 27, 2011 AT 12:14 pm

Team iLuminate – EL Wire suits

Team iLuminate – EL Wire suits, thanks Michael!


EL Wire, also known as Electroluminescent wire, is a stiff wire core coated with phosphor and then covered with a protective PVC sheath. When an AC signal is applied to it, it glows an aqua (blue green) color. Sometimes its covered with a colored plastic shell to make it appear another color. It looks a little like thin neon. Very bendable, it keeps its shape and you can curl it around your finger. Its an easy way to add some glow to a project, not as bright as LEDs but uses a lot less power!

It’s often used for costuming, decoration, accent lighting, safety vests, bicycle/motorcycle/car/boat/home decoration, signs, etc. It’s definitely the most popular wearable electronics we’ve seen since its so easily to use.

You can pick up some high-brightness, long-life EL wire and inverters at the Adafruit shop

Quickstart FAQ!

If you aren’t going to read the rest of the tutorial, here are the important parts to note:

  • EL is ‘cold’ – the wires generate no heat!
  • EL wire requires a driver/inverter that can provide 400-2000 Hz, 60-120VAC (that’s RMS not peak-to-peak!)
  • Higher frequency/voltage results in a brighter wire
  • Running the wire brighter will lead to a reduced lifetime (how many hours it takes until its half-brightness)
  • Our high-brightness/long-life EL wire can be driven at 100V/2000Hz for 3000 hours before it is half the original brightness
  • EL wire is capacitive, and cannot be PWM’ed or easily dimmed (unless you can adjust the voltage/frequency of the inverter)
  • The more wire you connect to an inverter, the more ‘loaded’ it is and the dimmer it will be
  • Our AA pocket driver can drive about 2.5 meters before it starts dimming significantly. 2 meters is a good amount, 3 is OK but wont be as bright.
  • If you ‘split’ and connect more than one piece of EL to an inverter, count the total length of all the pieces
  • The AA inverter works best with fresh batteries, but you can use rechargables – it’ll just be dimmer because the input voltage is lower.
  • The capacitance ‘load’ of the EL is required to stabilize the inverter so never run the inverter without at least 1 foot of EL attached!

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  1. Any way of doing a relay set shield for the inverters and an Arduino?

  2. @STrRedWolf if your looking to use relays for controlling the wire most go with transistors, sparkfun sells a cheap All in one unit, if your lookin for something with a bit more power has one for a bit more but much more power.

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