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El Wire Explained - How You Get Cool Light from Phosphorescence and Current by Ewan Fisher

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El Wire Explained - How You Get Cool Light from Phosphorescence and Current by
Article Posted: 07/19/2012
Article Views: 88
Articles Written: 60
Word Count: 505
Article Votes: 0
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El Wire Explained - How You Get Cool Light from Phosphorescence and Current

To understand how EL wire works, you must first understand what phosphorescence is. Phosphorescence is a type of luminescence directly associated with light or electrical excitement. The phosphorescent object absorbs energy from light or electrical stimulation, and re-emits it over a period of decay. So the light emitted by the object is first stored and then re-emitted into the world, often at a delay and generally for a long time.

Glow in the dark toys are a clear example of phosphorescence. The phosphorescent material in the toy absorbs light over a period of time then emits it back as light energy apparently under its own power. Technically, with a strong enough initial source of photons and a large enough phosphorescent object, you could illuminate (for example) a child’s bedroom all night, with that familiar unearthly glow that comes from phosphorescence.

So what does all this have to do with EL wire?

Well, EL wires gets light because the copper wire at its core is coated in phosphor. The phosphor coat is excited by the passage of electricity, which is achieved by passing an alternating current very quickly between the copper wire at the heart of the material, and a thinly wound fine wire going around it.

The whole thing is then sheathed in clear plastic or in plastic coloured in such a way that it combines with the blue-green light of the phosphorescent wire to create the desired final effect.

The reaction causing the phosphor to light up emits no heat whatsoever, or such a minimally defined level of heat that the wire never gets warm to the touch. This is in part a function of the efficiency of EL wire, which translates almost all energy passed through it in to light. The efficiency of the wire ensures that bright installations may be run for several hours, even when the wire is quite a number of metres long, on a couple of AA batteries.

The light emitted by EL wire is different to that emitted by a fibre optic wire or even an EL strip. Fibre optic wire only emits light from its end (or any other form of signal); and the source light in fibre optics can be very hot – as hot as the bulb or other lights source in question.

EL tape strips emit the same light as EL wire, but flatly – that is, there is one side or the other because the strip itself is a flat ribbon. Whereas, the wire in cross section is a proper circle and so the light is emitted on every conceivable angle of every conceivable plane.

Because the light is col and requires very little power to run, EL wire is a very cost effective method of introducing detail and decoration into a finished electrical design. It is also an outstanding way to create signs, specifically moving or apparently moving signs, in which different “scenes” made out of the wire, are alternately fired to create the illusion of animation or movement.

Related Articles - Stepper - motor, EL Wire, lilypad, electroluminescent wire, Arduino Mega, robot kits, Digital Oscilloscope, Ethernet Shield, DMX Lighting, relay board,

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