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Young Artist with question about LED's for installation

Discussion in 'Electronic Projects Design/Ideas/Reviews' started by SX0T, Jun 10, 2010.

  1. SX0T

    SX0T New Member

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    I was sent over to this forum by someone on a different forum who thought I might be able to get some good help over here. This is going to be a long post, but please bear with me.

    Hi, I am a young artist (25) and I am in the conceptual stages of a piece I want to make, but have a few questions that require the aid of some knowledgeable electricians. Hopefully I can present my project and get some answers without too much confusion.

    What I am looking to do is find a way to suspend a tube light (fluorescent, LED, whatever I can use or works best) in space using string. The problem, is that I want it to be lit, but not have to be attached to any sort of huge fixture like the ones on my ceiling that typically get long tubes put into.

    Is there a way to power a tube lightbulb, (florescent, LED, or otherwise) without it being attached to a fixture, and without some crazy wiring that would need to be done.

    For reference, I have a picture of the general idea that I am trying to convey:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    So, I need to know - is there a way to power an LED Tube light (or even a Fluorescent, I just assume it would be easier with LED) without a huge ballast using some kind of battery, or even a regular plug for a socket on a wall?

    If so, how?

    I should also note, in case this matters, that I would be covering the tube with a colored light gel to color the tube a very specific color.

    So I guess to rephrase the question in a more effective way, I'll start here. I included a drawing of what I am shooting for here in the end with 2 possible solutions (unless something better comes up) One solution on the left is to plug the light into a wall. Second solution on the left is to plug it into some sort of battery. There may be other solutions (ie smaller batteries, or whatever). What I want to do is suspend these 2 fluorescent or LED tubes at different degree's of angles from the ceiling (which is why there cannot be a large ballast mount). I want them to be about the size of a regular fluorescent tube (same in circumference around and about 36" in length). I have also found a link to something that may work, so I'm wondering if this will spark any better ideas.Plain LED Light Strip 36 Inches Long RED or Blue

    I'm wondering if something like that, that can be plugged into a wall (these can only use a cigarette lighter adapter can be slid down into a frosted tube.

    Maybe this new info will spark some more ideas - and thanks for all the help I've been given so far. Here is the drawing:
    [​IMG]

    With the help of some others, this is what I know so far.

    Fluorescent - cheapest, but needs wiring, wiring could be part of the installation to hold the lights up, but I would need to hide power somewhere (I don't even know what kind of "power" we are talking about).

    LED's - could be run off batteries maybe, or off of an AC outlet maybe, or even a DC power supply - so plenty of options. It has also been suggested to maybe purchase LED strips and send them down into my own frosted tube and essentially create my own LED tube.

    It sounds like LED is the way to go right now, but I still don't know how to go about this project. Any help or opinions are surely appreciated!
     
  2. MikeMl

    MikeMl Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    Flourecents operate at "shocking" voltages. Can someone "appreciating" your art come in contact with the tubes or the wires holding them up?

    Have you seen these? The ballast/supply can be remote from the tubes, The wire running between could be tiny, like 30 AWG.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2010
  3. SX0T

    SX0T New Member

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    Yes, I suppose it should be a safe installation - I did not know that using fluorescent bulbs would automatically make it not safe.

    I have seen things like what you mentioned in your link. Problem is that I need these lights to be about 36" in length and about the size of a fluorescent tube in thickness.
     
  4. dave

    Dave New Member

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  5. solis365

    solis365 New Member

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    How thin do you want the strings to be? How long do the lights have to be on for?

    You could either hide a big battery in the ceiling and, using LEDs, use the strings as wires. this would be low voltage and safe(not sure if it would pass like a government inspection or anything) to touch. You would probably want insulated wires but make them as narrow as possible.

    You could put individual LEDs inside the tube, each one having its own button-cell battery. This would only run for a couple hours, and you'd need lots of batteries...
     
  6. SX0T

    SX0T New Member

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    The strings would vary in length - I'm guessing 5-6 feet. Ideally the lights would need to be able to be on for a few hours a day for an extended period of time (if this piece were ever accepted into a show). I could make sacrifices to get it up and running for now, but then I would just have to re-figure everything out in the future.

    So, are you saying that if I used like LED strip lighting and put it into my own tube, I could use wire that could also function as the support that leads up to a battery hidden somewhere in the ceiling?

    And by "big battery" what are we talking here? Car battery? or is it something that would be custom built?
     
  7. solis365

    solis365 New Member

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    Really the "big battery" can be anything that supplies you a DC voltage for the LEDs (those LED strips you linked were 12V) with enough current. You could use a car battery, a custom battery, lots of standard size batteries, OR something that plugs into the wall and converts the AC into DC, which would probably be the best choice, since you wouldnt have to worry about batteries at all and this type of converter is cheap.

    The question is, how THIN are the strings supposed to be? I would imagine that the ideal solution for your project would be like fishing line or some other transparent, thin string. But if you can tolerate more width I think you could use wires both as structural support and power. We're not talking nearly as thick as, say, a lamp cord, but something like insulated 24 to 30 AWG. The diameter of 30AWG is 0.01 inches or 0.28 mm, and it can carry up to a rated 142mA. AWG rating table. series LEDs would need at most 20mA, so you can put 2 or 3 strings in parallel.

    Keep in mind the 0.01 inches will not include the thickness of insulation, which will probably double or triple the thickness.
    They make it in black. Actually, that particular insulation is probably thinner than what I just said. Try to find some at a hardware or electronics store perhaps and see if it'll fit the bill.

    How many 36" bulbs are you trying to put up in this display? because that will affect the power supply that you will need.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2010
  8. SX0T

    SX0T New Member

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    Do I need to make sure that whatever plug I have that converts AC to DC is certain volt? Also - how do I make sure that it is able to be connected to the wires? (The only kind I've ever seen goes from the wall and has a plug for whatever device is using it (modems, dvd players, etc).

    Ideally the strings would be almost nonexistent, but I know that is only a possibility if the tubes are somehow battery powered.

    also, when you say 2 or 3 strings in parallel, are you talking about strings of the wire? Maybe I'm confused, but if the 30AWG can cary 142mA, and series LED's need at most 20mA, why would I need to parallel things? wouldn't the one wire be enough to power the whole series?

    Thank you a bunch for your help so far, I finally feel like I'm getting somewhere with this stuff.
     
  9. solis365

    solis365 New Member

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    I just looked again at those strips you linked. They try to sell a 12V car charger on the same page so I assumed they were 12V, but they are not. Looking at the technical specs page, they are 3V - 6V and 300-600mA. This is too much. You can probably easily find a 12V or 24V LED strip that will take far less current, which is what you'll need to make the wires as thin as possible. try shopping around. You might look into LED rope lighting. It is probably very easy to modify to suit your project, and it's long and cheap. If you can't find a 36" LED bar or strip that meets your needs, you can consider using 2 or 3 bars inside of each tube (3 12" bars), but again this might require triple the wire. Let us know what you find.

    The 12V or 24V strip will also be convenient since most of the AC-DC converters are made for those voltages as well.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2010
  10. SX0T

    SX0T New Member

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  11. solis365

    solis365 New Member

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    Yeah, that is probably the type of thing you're looking for. The disadvantage is that the lights are only on one side of the strip, so the other side will be in shadow. Youll need 2 or 3 strips per bulb, facing away from each other to get even light distribution.

    Also note that the current requirement of the first link there is 170 - 200 mA, which is a bit high. The second one is only 90mA. Remember, if you put two strips in a bulb you'll EITHER need to double the voltage or double the available current.

    you might be able to reduce the current required by the strips if you don't need them to get as bright as possible, but you would probably have to see the brightness difference first.

    It might be possible for you to just MAKE a bunch of these strips yourself (its very, very simple to do, and will allow you to customize your current and voltage requirements to minimize the string width), but with far fewer LEDs per tube. This will reduce current and voltage requirements. To get better light uniformity youll probably have to diffuse the LEDs as well - I take it you want these tubes to look uniformly lit like a fluorescent bulb. Heres a cheap, creative way of diffusing LEDs that I found by googling "LED diffuser" Quick, Temporary, and Cheap LED Diffuser you could probably use the transparent or all-white straws to better effect than the striped ones.

    if you want to know how to make them let me know, or look it up, its been done hundreds of times. that instructables website has lots of people doing LED projects, if you search there im sure theres a "diy LED light strip" or something of that nature


    as a side note, what area of the country are you in? if this project ever goes up anywhere, I'd walk through it. who doesnt like colored lights?!
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2010
  12. SX0T

    SX0T New Member

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    I just want to get a few things straight before I head off starting to do stuff.

    1. Fluorescent bulbs seem to be too dangerous of a thing to mess with.

    2. Having concealed batteries (ie in the tubes) for LED's will be quite a pain and require constant changing of batteries.

    3. Best solution seems to be to find some way to use the wire, whatever thickness I end up with, to power LED's AND support the bulbs.


    I guess, my only last question. How the heck is it working so well in that first and third images that I posted?
     
  13. solis365

    solis365 New Member

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    1. if people are going to be walking amongst these things (which is the impression i got), or otherwise able to touch them, then fluorescent bulbs are too dangerous

    2. yeah, probably. especially if its on for hours at a time

    3. seems so, but I am just one guy and nobody else seems to be replying... someone else might have a much more brilliant idea


    those images are fine. if thats what you're going for, then you'll get it. just notice the large wires involved in powering those devices. if that is acceptable to you, then worry no more, it will be easy
    if you want much thinner wires, there will be some finagling involved, but its probably workable.
     
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  14. SX0T

    SX0T New Member

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    Worry no more?

    I'm more interested in how is it done!

    What I appear to be looking at is a fluorescent, or LED tube (either way) that is plugged into a wall? From my research, this appears to be quite a feat.

    As for the 3rd image, I have no idea what is going on - just liked how even the glow was.

    In actuality, I am quite flexible with what the wire looks like. Ideally it would be invisible, but if the end product is better in terms of the tube and it's glow, I would be willing to use a larger cord/wire.

    Thanks SO much for all the input you've given so far. A HUGE help.
     
  15. solis365

    solis365 New Member

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    if you're okay with the wires in the third photo there, get one of those 12V strips from besthongkong and pick up a wall wart that will do 200mA and 12Vdc. should be easy to find on ebay or electronics project stores like sparkfun.com (though I think sparkfun is expensive). if you have access to dumpsters where electronic crap is thrown out you can probably just find one (universities with engineering departments are a good start, but ask before you take)

    hook the two up and stick em in a tube to see what happens. my guess is youll need to play around with ways of diffusing the light to get it to look like that
     
  16. SX0T

    SX0T New Member

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    I think I should narrow down my questions as some things seem to have gotten a bit lost in all the answers and posts (which I greatly appreciate all the info I've been given - so much further now than when I tried to get these questions answered a few months ago).

    What I want:
    36" light that can be suspended from the ceiling - invisible wires a plus, but not necessary
    Can be Fluorescent, LED, or otherwise
    Would like to be battery or DC or outlet powered

    Questions:
    Can I wire a fluorescent bulb to run from an outlet?
    Can I wire a fluorescent LED bulb to run from an outlet?
    Is there an option that I have not explored yet?
    Is it possible to use LED strips and run them to an outlet/battery?
    With what option can a create a nice even glow (like that of a lightsaber?

    Thanks again for all the help everyone, you are all helping to eventually make this art installation possible for me!
     
  17. solis365

    solis365 New Member

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    1. yes
    2. yes
    3. glowsticks? otherwise im not sure what sort of lighting there is available outside of LED and fluorescent that will be suitable for waht youre asking.
    4. yes
    5. fluorescents will have a guaranteed even glow. if you put LEDs inside a tube, you might have to come up with some way of diffusing the light. there are lots of ways to do it, but I can't tell you one that I can guarantee will work. fill the rest of the bulb with some kind of translucent material (grocery bags? some kind of clearish glue or foam?), sand the outsides of the led bulbs and/or the inside of the tube, find tubes that are already "frosted", put "frosted" plastic sheets inside the tubes already rolled up... you'll have to experiment (hehe, youre the artist here) but it can probably be done.

    you might try something called LED rope. Blue LED Rope Lights is an example. they often come with an adapter built in so that you can just plug the rope segment into the wall.
     

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