Fun with el-wire - flexible portable DIY neon


Mexican Tron!

Of course, you might be able to do slightly better than that on eBay. Get spare inverters (battery boxes) on Adafruit. (Why exactly these things use nonstandard connectors, I do not understand. I guess it’s important not to accidentally plug them in to something else, as they do pack quite a punch.)

It is only slightly disappointing how fragile this stuff can sometimes be; I use it on my bicycle.

How much power does it draw?

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I don’t know exactly, but the exposed wires will give you a sufficiently painful shock. (Perhaps someone else will chime in…?)


EL wire is fun, but it’s delicate. I’ve made costumes with it and significant chunks go dark after just a few outings. Flexing seems to crack one of the elements inside the tube.

You could solder whatever kind of connector you want straight onto the EL wire. It’s finicky, but if I can do it, anyone can.

It’s a lovely effect, but I’d still rather work with LEDs for their brightness and durability. The driver units for these things take battery voltages and crank them up to very high voltages (low amps), typically making a very high pitched whine that can be very annoying if you’re anyplace but a loud rave.

Very high voltage, very low wattage. It is a piece of tiny coaxial with a really tiny copper wire wrapped around and then it is sprayed with the glowing stuff and sometimes then protected with a coat of flexible plastic. The tiny wire can easily work harden and then break from too much flexation.

No, I have never been to Burning Man.


In some cases the circuit can be shifted to a different frequency, beyond the audible range. I had such a DC-DC converter in an amp, running at about 10 kHz and injecting whine. The chip had input for external clock, got a 20 kHz 555-based oscillator and ran quietly ever since.

Some inverters can be moved to a different frequency by changing a capacitor or sometimes a resistor. Some run on resonance of the coil and these are harder. But at the end of the day it is just a low-voltage DC to high-voltage AC converter.

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