ElWire (Electroluminescent Wire) or LyTecTM is a product of ELAM Electroluminescent Industries Ltd..
It is a flexible wire that glows when AC electricity is applied to it. It comes in a variety of colors and widths and can be powered with relatively small amounts of electricity while staying cool.
Further more, ElWire is very flexible, provides 360 degree lighting, is portable and lasts up to 25,000 hours.
As the sole manufacturer of ElWire, ELAM is the best source for detailed technical information. The following excerpt from their website describes the makeup and function of ElWire:
In the center is a solid copper conductor. The copper conductor is coated with an electroluminescent phosphor. Two very fine wires are wrapped around the phosphor. A clear or colored plastic sheath comes next, and a second plastic sheath surrounds the first. The functions of each of these layers are as follows:
The center copper conductor and the two fine wires together supply power. The copper conductor also provides a small amount of mechanical rigidity, and is used as a substrate upon which to deposit the phosphor. The phosphor is the key element of EL wire; it emits light when subjected to an AC field. The inner plastic sheath protects the phosphor and in some cases is used to filter the light produced by the phosphor, emphasizing certain colors. The outer plastic sheath provides further protection. Many phosphors are highly sensitive to moisture; the two sheaths together provide good protection against infiltration.
EL wire can be driven by any AC source. Power is applied between the inner conductor and the two outer wires (which are tied together). This applies an AC field across the phosphor, causing it to glow. A high voltage in the range of 100V is required to make the wire glow brightly. It can be produced from an inverter, from the mains (e.g. a wall outlet), from an audio amplifier, from a signal generator, etc. If the voltage is not high enough (as in the case of a medium power audio amplifier), it can be stepped up with a transformer. When the wire is connected to a high current source like the AC mains, a fuse and/or current limiting resistor is used for safety due to the danger of a short circuit.
EL wire acts as a capacitor, with capacitance proportional to the length of the wire segment. This means that given a constant voltage, power consumption is proportional to frequency. Light output is also roughly proportional to frequency. See the appropriate table for a more accurate guide to the relationship of light output to frequency and voltage.
The spectrum produced by some types of EL wire varies with the frequency of the applied power. Those that are filtered (have a colored inner sheath) vary less in color. The "aqua" ("ice blue") wire is most sensitive; its color can be varied from deep green to deep blue by varying the power frequency from 60 Hz to 6 kHz. Due to its capacitive nature, to maintain constant brightness as frequency is swept the voltage must also be varied, from high voltage at low frequency to a lower voltage at high frequency.
This PDF (http://www.elam.co.il/img/pdf/Electroluminescent_effect.pdf) from ELAM describes the electrical nature and chemical compounds in ElWire. In essence, ElWire itself completes a circuit when AC Electricity is applied to the core and the opposite charge is applied to the wire wrapped around the core.
This page (http://www.elam.co.il/products.php?cat=6#)
shows the wide range of colors available and includes a link to a PDF spec sheet available for each color (in this particular diameter) as well as a PDF spec sheet for all of the common attributes (at the particular diameter).
Some examples are:
The ElWire FAQ (http://www.elam.co.il/faq.php) is a good source of information as are the assembling instructions (http://www.elam.co.il/img/pdf/103.pdf).
Here are some images detailing our experience with ElWire:
This image illustrates the soldering together of ElWire (Red) with 22 gauge wire. The Yellow wire is soldered to the copper core of the ElWire while the Blue wire is soldered to the thin wires wrapped around the core. The next step is to protect ourselves and equipment by taping the two soldered areas up so as to insure they never touch.
This image shows two strands of green ElWire connected to the same power source, one is lit the other is not. This illustrates some of the difficulties in getting and maintaining good connections with ElWire, specifically the difficulties we encountered keeping the thin wires intact.
This image details the inverter (2 AA Batteries to 120 Volts AC) including our wires from the blue ElWire to the inverter.
Here is a detail of utilizing a reed relay with switch on our breadboard to turn on and off the ElWire. The AC electricity powering the ElWire travels lengthwise through the relay when 5VDC is applied to the side of the relay.
You can learn more as well as purchase ElWire from the following websites:
ELAM USA Inc. http://www.elamusainc.com
Some ideas for ElWire use include:
Auto, PC Modding and other Decoration
Instrument decoration (think ITP instruments)