I was recently pointed to something called LumiLor from Darkside Scientific, which seems to be offering some kind of flexible contoured electroluminescent paint, basically flexible EL-wire that can cling to any surface or be any shape. (See this youtube video for a demonstration.)

EL-wire is made up of phosphors stuck inside a small capacitor which glows in the presence of an altering electric field (Jerie Ellsworth gives a good explanation here, in a youtube video explaining how to create your own wire at home.)

It turns out my theory on how LuminLor works is probably correct, as this other video from Ellsworth shows. The "stack up" as she refers to it, is a five layer silkscreen process, but in the case of LuminLor I believe it is a spray or paint application.

Image from astounde/Darkside Scientific
  • You start with a base coat of a conductive material which acts as one plate of a capacitor. It can be either transparent or opaque; they seem to use a transparent layer because it allows you to also see a non-luminescent paintjob under whatever they're painting.
  • Next a transparent insulating layer is laid down, probably a clear varnish.
  • On top of that goes the phosphor layer, probably one of the inks available from Dupont. They might also be using a hydrographic process to put patterns of phosphor onto objects.
  • A transparent conductive layer is laid down either after or along with the phosphor layer, completing the capacitor.
  • Finally another layer of transparent varnish is laid down to insulate the whole thing and prevent shorts and shocks to the end user.

During the process, flexible electrodes are attached to the conductive layers, which are later hooked up to an EL power supply. (~120V AC @ 60-200kHz or so.)

The current mystery is how to get ahold of the phosphor ink, Dupont seems to have a website mentioning it but does not actively sell it. They do have a nifty pdf document describing some of the process used. They have several different recommendations for the build sequence, with the phosphor layer either inside the capacitor or on top of it.

Ellsworth provided a link to some students selling small amounts of the ink, but they're currently out of stock.