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EL-wire uses very low power and has become popular for wearable computing projects, e.g. heartbeat jacket http://www.sparkfun.com/tutorials/130 or speed jacket http://makeprojects.com/Project/Speed-Vest/1344/1

Making an LED blink is easy. But how about EL-wire? This short tutorial shows you how to achieve what you see in the following video:

As EL-wire requires AC power input, you can’t control it directly via an Arduino. Therefore you need an inverter and a TRIAC (thrysistor). Here’s the full list of what parts you’ll need:

1) Connect the output wires of the inverter with the EL wire. If your EL-wire doesn’t come with connectors, ladyada provides a nice tutorial how to solder EL wire to an inverter. Ladyada’s tutorial also comes in handy if you want to cut your EL-wire to a custom length.

2) The input wires of the inverter (usually red/black if not labeled otherwise) need to be connected to ground and power (3V). As you want to manually switch on/off the EL-wire via an Arduino, you need to put a TRIAC in between the power supply and the positive / red wire of the inverter (see circuit below).

 control EL-wire via arduino

The black wire is directly connected to ground. Whenever you set PIN 13 high, the TRIAC closes the circuit, i.e. makes the EL-wire glow.

3) Upload the blink example to your Arduino:

/*
  Blink
  Turns on an LED on for one second, then off for one second, repeatedly.
  This example code is in the public domain.
 */
void setup() {                
  // initialize the digital pin as an output.
  // Pin 13 has an LED connected on most Arduino boards:
  pinMode(13, OUTPUT);     
}
void loop() {
  digitalWrite(13, HIGH);   // set the LED on
  delay(1000);              // wait for a second
  digitalWrite(13, LOW);    // set the LED off
  delay(1000);              // wait for a second
}

You should see the EL-wire going on and off.

From here you can expand your code and make your EL-wire go on and off according to your project needs, e.g. make it respond to particular sensor-values attached to your Arduino. Also, EL-wire is quite flexible, so you can easily form custom shapes, such as here:

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8 thoughts on “How to make EL-wire blink?

  1. Hi,

    I followed the tutorial and the EL wire blinked for about 30 seconds and now just stays lit. I’ve re-uploaded the code and reset the Arduino. Have you had a similar experience?

    Thanks for posting this tutorial.

    tzola

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  2. Could i expand this to use the same inverter for multiple el-wires, to turn on-off in the sequence i want, just by connecting multiple triac/octo’s input pins on the same inverter output ?

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  3. In the circuit above you are switching the DC with a triac. This will not work as tge triac will not turn off. A triac is meant for switching AC, that is, the output of the inverter. If you want to switch DC use a MOSFET or a transistor.

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  4. what power supply did you use for the arduino? could i supply this with a 3v wall wart or does is need one with a higher voltage since the arduino’s input voltage is from 7v-12v

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  5. What would I need in order to switch the el wire on and off after the driver? I need to be able to switch multiple strands on and off using a single inverter. I know that it’s a certain AC voltage but not sure what type of transistor would work for this. Thanks for your help!

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  6. Pingback: Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: STEMArts Workshop & Pre-PASEO Pop-Up | Renegade Futurism

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