EL Wire

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A page for discussion of EL Wire and in particular microcontroller controled EL wire.

This is an early draft... add to it please.

What is ElectroLuminescent Wire ( EL ) Wire

Well it is a wire, much like hook up wire, but when properly stimulated will light up like a tiny neon sign. Wire can be long, well over 10 feet. It is a favorite at BurningMan during the night.

Some Questions an Answers about EL Wire

Question 1: If a driver says it is for "50-100 feet" or "20-100 feet", is it a problem to drive only 5 feet of ElWire with it?

According to Ryan at WorldAglow, running a driver with too little load can damage it. He recommends using a power resistor as a dummy load to be switched on when the inverter would be otherwise under-loaded. He acknowledged that a capacitor would also work to simulate the ElWire load. Of course, this has the disadvantage of always using some amount of power, even when all the ElWire is off.

Question 2: I thought I read somewhere that there was a problem with running an ElWire inverter with no ElWire attached.

No EL Wire is the same as 0 feet so see question 1.

Question 3: Does anyone know if ElWire responds well to attempts to control its brightness by Pulse Width Modulation of the power being applied to it?

Probably. The lower the freqency the the more we can be sure of it. The blending is done in the eye, 24 Hz is normal for movies, so this or faster might be a good starting point. Motion can make the modulation more obvious, so a frequency somewhat higher might be better. Need the frequency to be low enough so the width can be controlled accurately and to leave computation cycles for the controller. You should also be aware of the frequency of the AC used to activate the wire, clearly the pulse witdth should be long enough for a few cycles of this voltage to be applied to the el wire at the dim end of the range.


Question 4: A microcontroller can switch only about 5 volts, how can it control the over 100 v used by EL Wire.

Seems like the popular answer is to use a triac, driven through an optical isolator if you think the mc needs a lot of protection.

Question 5: Will EL Wire show up during the day?

No. It looks just like a colored wire during the day, as the phosphorescence of the wire will not illuminate over daylight. At night, it will light up like crazy.

Please add more questions and answers if you have them here...... It's a Wiki.

EL Wire Links


There is not much on the web about microcontroller control of EL wire. Here are a few links, may or may not include microcontrollers.

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