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EL Wire, EL Tape, What Is It?

Maybe a friend told you about EL Wire, or you discovered EL Tape on the dashboard of your car, but have no idea of what it is, what you can do with it, and really what the heck it is. Well, if that sounds like you, keep reading and we’ll take the guess work out of EL. Electroluminescence is a technology that was discovered about 100 years ago, but really only came into the mainstream in the early 2000s. In the mid-1950s, the US military started using EL in aircraft, submarines and other vehicles as a way to see their gauges in darkness. The low light output of the product made it perfect to see in dark environments, without losing their night vision. Electroluminescence is a light that is created by a specialized phosphor that emits a glow when a certain voltage and frequency are applied. This glow is often referred to as Electroluminescent Lighting. Today, there are many types of Electroluminescent lighting, that also come in many different forms; like EL Wire, EL Tape, EL Panels, EL Paint, VynEL and more. Let’s first talk about how EL Works, and then we can understand the different forms of the product. EL phosphors create a glow when a high voltage and frequency are applied. These phosphors are very receptive to voltage and frequency and play a little dance with each other. Generally speaking, the higher the voltage, the more the EL will glow. Conversely, the higher the frequency and the more it will glow. Special inverters are made to allow different EL materials to glow at optimal levels, which we will go into later. EL phosphor is measured in candela per meter (cd/m) for linear objects like EL Wire, or candela per meter squared (cd/m2) for flat objects like EL Tape. This brightness designation is typically only used for surface illumination that comes from flat materials, and not as common to be measured in lumens. Lumens are generally measured on LEDs, since they are meant to “throw” light rather than be an even surface illumination. A common instance we use brightness measured in cd/m2 is in TV backlighting. Lifespan Lifespan is a tricky thing to measure with EL technology, since there are a number of factors that play into the overall lifespan of the product. Typically measured to the phosphors half-life (meaning the time it takes for the phosphor to lose 50% of its brightness), most EL Phosphors on the market today have a lifespan of about 4-6000 hours. However depending on the application, EL Phosphor usually doesn’t just go out, it degrades over time, and can be used far longer than this.