All You Need to Know About Electroluminescent Materials- EL Wire, EL Tape, EL Panel!

All You Need to Know About Electroluminescent Materials- EL Wire, EL Tape, EL Panel!

Electroluminescent materials, such as zinc sulphide layered with copper, are those when subjected to electric current or a strong electric field, they emit light. They are being used in various forms ranging from electronic applications to textile structures.

You can put it on your bicycle wheels or can create a glowing costume for your school project or something, the diversity that EL materials offer is what has made it popular among all age groups. They are available in a variety of colors and shapes which makes them fit for various applications.

The popular forms in which EL materials are usually used include EL wires, panel, and tape. You will learn about these three EL material forms in detail in this article. All the frequently asked questions about these materials are to be answered:

What is an EL wire (Composition and Working)?

EL wires are not something new but now people have found various applications for them which have made them popular. An EL wire has a thick copper wire which has phosphor coating on it and phosphor has another thin copper wire twirled around it. Surrounding it is a clear PVC which further has colored PVC on it.

When the alternating current of 90V to 120V at 100-Hz to the copper core wire and the wire surrounding it, the constant charging and discharging excites the phosphor to emit light. Phosphor produces limited colored lights so, some EL wires use additional fluorescent dyes in clear PVC sleeve to change the colors of light.

How to Use EL wires (Cutting, Joining, Soldering, Applications)?

EL wires should be dealt with care because they have a very delicate structure. If you want to cut it, make sure not to cut the two thin corona wires. You may find soldering an EL wire bit tricky as you need many tools like a wire cutter, strippers, copper tape, heat gun, solder, razor blade, etc. start by cutting off the PVC, the outer most layer while keeping the two corona wires intact.

After getting it done right you will have three wires. Hold the EL wire with the third-hand tool and solder the thin corona wires with a copper tape by using a heating gun. Now you are left with core copper wire that is coated with phosphor. Remove the phosphor coating with the help of a razor blade. Now bring the wire that you want to attach with it, having its insulation removed already from the section that is to be attached to the EL wire.

Now you can solder one small inner wire of the cable to be attached to the middle copper wire of EL wire, and other to the copper tape to which we already have soldered corona wires. You can heat the final assembly with a heating gun or a hair dryer for better results. 

EL wires if dealt with care can be attached to other wires. EL wires are very flexible and can be molded in any shape we want. For instance, they can be sewed to any fabric, as commonly used by hip hop dancers. They can be used in various signs in some public places. They are mostly used for decorative purposes because they do not emit adequate light in which you can cook or read. 

They can be used underwater but not for long because the plastic coating can absorb water and turn black, moreover, the drivers or power supplies are not waterproof which can lead to malfunctions. EL wires are usually attached to batteries which can last for 8 or 10 hours, varying with the size of EL wire.

Being operated on batteries make them fit to be used for making glowing costumes. EL wires consume less energy which means they are less likely to heat up and are cool to touch, unlike LEDs. It’s the efficiency and versatility of EL wires which has enabled it to bespeak modern art. 


What is an EL inverter and why do EL wire need it?

An EL inverter converts household AC to a high-frequency AC which makes an EL wire glow. It is more likely to say that these plug-in inverters drive EL wires. They are larger than the hand-held battery packs. They do not need batteries as they operate on your home’s electricity, which they consume less than a desk lamp does. They can be used to power wire of 2000 feet from a single unit. Make sure to use high-quality inverter because if not then EL wires lose their brightness over time.

How much does an EL wire costs?

The cost of EL wires depends upon the length and brightness of it. If you want to buy a short piece under 1m, it will be cheap. However, buying above 3m can be expensive. So, what is recommended is that you can buy it in separate small chunks and connect them together yourself using connectors.

They usually have 100m length, for the wholesale. However, you can end up having a part of the wire that won’t glow because of inadequate phosphor or might have a different colored section. 

EL Wire

What is an EL Tape?

Like an EL wire, EL tape is another form of electroluminescent material. It gives the same glowing effect but in flat form. It has a wide shape approximately 1cm wide instead of a rounded one. Having a wider surface area, it requires more voltage than an EL wire, so a different inverter is needed for it, likewise, it is brighter.

Moreover, one side of the tape is adhesive and can be stuck to any desired thing. It is weather-proof, but do not forget that connectors are not weather resistant and can malfunction if exposed to heat or water. 

How to solder an EL Tape?

It is easier to solder an EL tape, unlike EL wire. You need the same tools as are discussed for the soldering of EL wire. Start by peeling off the protective plastic layer, a razor blade should be used for this. Beneath that you will find a grey layer, that is where the connection is to be affixed.

Attach a copper wire on each side of this grey area and make sure no to put on white lines between this grey portion because it is non-conductive and separates the different types of charges. Solder the cable to be attached to this copper tape with superglue, making sure not to touch the middle white area. Bow wrap heat shrink tubing around the soldered area to secure it. If you have ever soldered an EL wire, you find it much easier to solder EL tape. 

What are EL Panels?

EL Flat Panels

They are paper-thin glowing sheets. They are flexible and thin which makes them a perfect medium for advertising. They can be placed on any surface even curved ones or on fabrics. They grab customer’s attention easily and saves money. You can buy these panels and can use them in any form or shape you want.

They might not be as bright as LED signs, but they surely help you conserve energy. They are known by many other names such as Light panels, lightboxes, Lite panels or luminescent panels. 

These EL panels can be cut with regular scissors in any desired shape, but that cut edge must be sealed from any tape or epoxy to avoid panel malfunctioning or electrocuting oneself. The flexibility, ease of handling and energy-efficiency is what makes EL panels a popular form of electroluminescent material. 

Electroluminescent materials are undoubtedly the best medium to modify your designs either they are related to advertising or are designing a costume. The versatility, customization, personalization, and efficiency that these materials offer makes them suitable for several purposes. Unique designs in bright colors are helping to create a colorful and creative world around us!

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