Electroluminescence?

EL Wire SpiralBy now, many of us have seen the new cool glowing wire known as EL Wire.

What does the EL stand for? Well Electroluminescence of course! So what exactly is Electroluminescence anyways?

Electroluminescence is the scientific term used when a material emits light when an electrical current is passed through it. Most common EL (Electroluminescent) devices are composed of either a powder or thin films. In the case of EL wire, a thin film is encased within the wire itself and when an electrical current passes through it, it begins to light up with a bright, cool glowing effect!

What a cool new invention!

Well, new is not exactly accurate. General Electric has patents dating back to the 1930s regarding Electroluminescent technologies and has been used as automotive instrument back-lighting for decades. Even your LCD Computer Monitor uses a Electroluminescent technology as the back-lighting is a powder phosphor-based panel that transmits light when a current is passed through it.

So, EL technologies have been around a while, your probably just starting to hear the term used more due to modern advancements in battery technologies and portable lighting devices are becoming more widespread. This allows the EL technology to be used in mobile lighting and novelty entertainment devices much more readily.

Check out the wikipedia article on Electroluminescence for more information!

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What are L.E.D Lights?

What is an L.E.D? 

L.E.D. is the common abbreviation for a ‘Light-Emitting-Diode‘. An L.E.D. is a semi-conducting device that produces light when an electrical current flows through it.

How do L.E.Ds work?

An L.E.D. consists of a chip of semiconducting material treated to create a structure called a p-n (positive-negative) junction. When connected to a power source, an electric current flows from the p-side (anode) to the n-side (cathode), but not in the reverse direction. Charge-carriers (electrons and electron holes) flow into the junction from electrodes. When an electron meets a hole, it falls into a lower energy level, and releases energy in the form of a photon (light).

When were L.E.Ds invented?

L.E.Ds were first developed in the 1960s but were used only in indicator applications until recently. The electronics industry has been using LED technology for several decades as indicator lights for various electronic devices. In more recent years, LED technology has progressed to the point where it is viable for general lighting applications and gained mainstream recognition as a primary portable light source.

How do L.E.Ds emit different colors?

The specific wavelength or color emitted by the LED depends on the materials used to make the diode. Red LEDs are based on aluminum gallium arsenide (AlGaAs). Blue LEDs are made from indium gallium nitride (InGaN) and green from aluminum gallium phosphide (AlGaP). “White” light is created by combining the light from red, green, and blue (RGB) LEDs or by coating a blue LED with yellow phosphor.

Where have L.E.Ds been used in the lighting industry?

L.E.Ds are commonly used in aesthetic, effect, or specialty lighting applications, including architectural highlighting. Most traffic lights and exit signs, for example, now use L.E.D. technology. L.E.D lights are also common place in almost all home electronics, toys and novelty items. Christmas lights are becoming popular in an L.E.D. variety and many cell phones and handheld electronics use L.E.Ds due to the lightweight, limited power drain and non-heating properties. L.E.D lights have made portable and battery operated lighting much more affordable to manufacturer resulting in improving products such as battery operated lamps, flashlights, light wands and even new and fun applications such as light up sports balls and flameless candles!

Have L.E.Ds always been used in general illumination lighting?

No. Early attempts to apply L.E.Ds in general illumination lighting failed because they didn’t meet the lumen-per-watt output or color requirements. Technology has now advanced to the point where using L.E.Ds for general illumination is viable. Lighting industry experts are gaining a better understanding of how to capitalize on that technology.

What are the advantages to using L.E.D. lights?

L.E.Ds bring several advantages to the lighting industry, including high efficiency and durability, and, with superior life over other lamp sources, their required maintenance is greatly reduced. This translates into energy savings, maintenance savings and an overall reduction in cost of ownership over the product’s lifetime.

Do you have to replace L.E.D. diodes?

An L.E.D. does not burn out like a ordinary lamp, so individual diodes do not need to be replaced. Instead, the diodes gradually produce lower output levels over a very long period of time. If one L.E.D. fails, it does not produce a complete fixture outage.

Glow Sticks in a Freezer make them last longer?

You may have heard that putting an activated glow stick in the freezer or deep-freeze will stop the ‘glow’ effect and let you save the glow stick for when you need it next.

Can this be true?!?

Why, yes! It is true!

Since the glowing effect of a glow stick is a luminescent chemical reaction, temperature has a direct effect on glow chemical products. Cooling or freezing a chemical reaction causes the effects to slow, by heating it, this increases and speeds up the reaction. By placing an activated glow stick in the freezer, you are freezing the internal liquids and in turn slowing the chemical reaction. By completely freezing a glow stick, you are effectively shutting ‘off’ the glow effect. This will work for any chemi-luminescent product.

On the alternate side, having a glow stick in a hot environment will cause the chemical reaction to increase resulting in a much brighter glow effect for a reduced duration. So by re-heating a glow stick, you are reactivating the chemical reaction and starting the glow effect again. Keep in mind that this can reduce the overall duration of the glow stick slightly.

Important Safety Note: Do not place a frozen Glow Stick in the microwave to defrost it! Since a glow stick is a sealed plastic tube with internal chemical liquids, placing it in a microwave can cause it to melt or even explode. It is always recommended to under warm tap water to defrost it.

Fun Facts: How Do Glow Sticks Work?

Chemical Light is composed of two major chemical components: one, an activator that determines the duration and intensity of the light and the second an oxalate “flourescer”, which determines color. At this point, there are eleven known colors – red, blue, green, orange, aqua, yellow, purple, pink, white, yellow-green, and jade-green. The two active chemicals are separated until activation is needed. Separation is achieved by placing a specific amount of oxalate in a sealed onionskin glass ampule, which is inserted into the cavity of the plastic light stick, and then an exact amount of compatible activator is delivered into that cavity. A plastic cap then seals the tube. In order to activate a light stick, one simply bends the glow stick until the glass ampule inside breaks, thereby combining the two chemicals and generating a chemical reaction, which then creates the light of the glow stick!

Learn more here:

The Origins of Glow

Early development of chemical light for military use began in approximately 1970 by American Cyanamid and the U.S. Navy. The primary use was for fueling ships at sea. The chemiluminescent light product was attached to the fuel lines between ships for night lighting; an ideal situation since the chemical light product does not produce significant heat or static spark. Other branches of the military began using the light sticks for multiple purposes. The most use occurs with the ground forces. Ground forces use the products mostly for night training purposes, night marking, and impromptu landing zones.

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Glow Sticks have since branched out from their original military purposes. Because they are a non-heat producing, non-sparking source of light, glow sticks are extremely valuable to have on hand in emergency kits and are deemed the only safe source of light after an earthquake, hurricane, flood or tornado as they require no electricity and will not spark off a gas leak explosion.

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Because the Glow stick is a relatively inexpensive item and the glow sticks themselves are a consistent, safe source of light, glow sticks have become an extremely popular entertainment item and have morphed into various shapes and sizes. The glow stick was extended to create the hugely popular 22” Glow Necklace – often being sold at school dances, amusement parks, fairs and fire works celebrations. And glow sticks now come in a wide range of sizes from 1 ½ “ long all the way to 15” long. 6” Glow sticks have remained popular with the club scene, even generating its own dance – glowsticking – where the dancers spin and twirl the glow sticks around to music. 6” glow sticks can be custom printed with logos making them popular at concerts and even for trade show giveaways. A wide variety of other entertainment items have also been spawned out of glow sticks, such as the glowing golf ball for glowing night golf tournaments.

By Glow Products