So, this is a project that was nearly a month in the making. I set out to make a sound-reactive EL panel but found that driving EL in such a way is actually kind of difficult. If you’ve been following the blog, I’ve been working on this project in one way or another since my transformers article, and it’s actually the reason I wrote that article.
Again, a disclaimer. There are over 8,000 words in this post that document all of my design decisions on this project. It is not a how-to guide, but if you have some background in EE, I hope that you gain something from it.
EL materials (wire, tape, panels) are an odd bunch. No matter where you look, EL panels seem to be always be made very cheaply and with very little documentation. There doesn’t seem to be any “pro” version of the stuff.
So my goal with this project was to try to exert more sophisticated control over EL materials. So far, everyone can seem to make EL blink fairly easily, but if I know my electronics, fancy gadgets don’t have blinking lights, they have pulsing lights that fade in and out gradually. This is usually because blinking a light is much simpler than dimming one.
So I want to make a dimming EL panel driver. And what the hell, let’s make it react to sound too.
EL Wire 6V Sound Activated Pocket Inverter. A small, portable inverter for EL wire with an audio input! This inverter has a little microphone and will light the connected EL according to the surrounding audio volume. Makes for an easy reactive project.
This inverter requires 6V input (it works great with our 4xAA battery holder) and it can drive 2-3 meters (7 to 10 feet) of our high-brightness EL wire OR 1 meter (3 feet) of EL tape OR a 10cmx10cm piece of EL panel continuously for about 21 hours (off of 4xAAs).
There is a switch for selecting steady/sound/off modes – steady is always on. Comes with a single 2.5mm pitch female JST connectors, standard for all the EL wire and tape we carry. Theres also two power wires, youll need to connect these to a 6VDC power source.
You can plug any of our EL wire/tape into this inverter directly. To connect a raw piece EL wire to this, youll want a male connector wire
The EL inverter requires a load to stabilize itself. Do not run the inverter without at least 2 ft of EL wire attached! Otherwise the inverter can spike and damage itself
Like all inverters weve used, the 2000 Hz oscillation is slightly audible. To reduce the squeaking, we suggest opening up the case padding it with thick foam tape/weatherstripping. Squirting some hot glue around the capacitors may also help. We managed to get it silent this way.
Check out our EL TRON bag tutorial for ideas, as well as the EL wire couch video!