Electroluminescent Tubes

I feel like this must have been discussed before, but I can’t find anything definitive regarding the feasibility.

I was thinking, about those little light up capsules that some people are so fascinated with. It doesn’t really interest me much. But what would is what appears as a light up tattoo or some such thing, but not just a dot. So I was thinking about how to make light up lines. (Because sheets are more complicated in my mind.) I figure they have to be flexible if they’re going anywhere that isn’t like... dead... (sorry tried to think of a place on the body, I guess the leg is really the least flexible part since most people don’t rotate their legs much). Since it’s intended to be immediately under the skin and preferably fixed to the skin via the connective tissues growing around it, in a similar way to an RFID chip, it needs to be bendy.

So I’ve been doing some research about existing medical implants and found that, polypropylene meshes used for organ support could potentially be used for something, also silicone. Did you know that silicone cosmetic implants aren’t just a mushy mass of silicone, they’re typically sacs filled with a fluid, usually a saline solution.

That got me thinking. Could we somehow have little silicone tubes. Filled with some sort of electroluminescent fluid. Preferably something nontoxic or combustible. (So neon is probably out of the question.)

Obviously this is not a “work on in my spare time” implantable project, but it’s more of a concept at this point that needs significantly more fleshing out. (No pun intended, it just sort of came out that way.)

Thoughts? Comments? Am I bringing up a discussion that was long ago put to rest?


  • The biggest issue with this is probably powering the implant. Alex Smith designed an implantable NFC-powered light, which used induction to power the light through the skin. Here's a video of it in use:
    Electroluminescent lights apparently require very high voltage, but little power. They could be powered with a battery (and are in lots of common electronic devices), but in order to do that they also need a converter circuit to up the voltage from what is supplied by the battery.

  • This idea gave me another UNTESTED idea. I have thought about glow in the dark tattoos. Not just black light tattoos but actual glow in the dark tattoos. Right now I don't think the inks are safe or even available unless homemade but I wonder if some of the good glow in the dark powder could be put into a glass or plastic tube and implanted. To get them to glow real bright would probably still take a black light to charge them up but a normal LED flashlight gets the powder to glow pretty good.

    I have some powder that I have enclosed between pieces of melted glass so the high temperature doesn't hurt it. I don't know if it would charge up or even be visible if implanted but it might be something to think about.

    If it did work, maybe it could be combined with an implantable chip if there is space left in the tube.

    The only thing I have right now to even partially test this idea (non implant) would be a plastic tube from an ink pen but I think someone (maybe Alex) offered to sell empty glass tubes. Glass capillary tubes might be an option for DIY experimenting but I don't have any of those either.

  • I've done a little bit of research into liquid crystals being used for subdermal applications, I'll see if I can dig up anything relevant to it when I get free time. ^^

  • I’m curious, was the blinking in the video intentional or was that the result of the chip needing to build up the power it received in order to light up the light, like a flash on a camera builds up power because the camera can’t supply enough power constantly to just light it up on a whim.

    Also, cool.

    My latest thoughts on the idea are that the easiest thing to do would be implanting thing glass tubes, or something glass like that’s flexible, but rigid enough to feed something though it, while being thin and... glass tubes would be easier, but not friendly to bendy areas. So having tubes, feed EL wire through it. I knew this was a thing, don’t know why I didn’t think to mention EL Zaire earlier. Apparently though EL wire can be faded by UV light. I’m curious if that happens anywhere quickly and if the skin would block most of the harmful light. I intend on buying some wire to test it and determine just how small a tube it could fit in. Since the stuff can be cut and soldered to be just about any length I figure it’d be perfect all by itself except that it’s probably not implant-friendly. As for power. Don’t know. I suppose I always figured on figuring out the power supply when I figured out the lighting system.

  • I think the blinking is what the device does if it is the same as an NFC fingernail sticker.

    I tried filling a tiny piece of a pen ink tube with glow in the dark powder and it looks promising but I don't know if it would work under the skin. It was visible and chargeable through a fingernail.

    I need to find a thin glass tube that could be filled to make an implantable version. The closest I have found is this from ebay:


    Not sure if 0.9-1.1mm inside diameter is too small to fill up though and am not completely sure it would be biosafe glass or not. If anyone knows where to get the empty glass tubes like NFC tags come in that isn't real expensive, I'd be interested in experimenting some more with this idea.

  • I can really see those being super dangerous... So much leverage. >~<

    They will break like spaghetti and leave sharp splinters and spears of glass wherever you put them, and spill their continents, if they are damaged. c_c

    Heavily suggest not using glass in this application.

  • I wasn't thinking of using the full length of the glass capillary tubes but cutting and melting them to a size similar to (or smaller than) an RFID implant so there would be less chance of breakage but splinters and spears of glass would be bad if it did break.

    Whatever the powder would be contained in should be as clear as possible to allow the most light in and out. It likely wouldn't work very good through skin and would have no practical purpose so the whole idea might not be worth trying. I'm sure it would be dimmer than the V1 Firefly implants.

  • if you need tubing I'd recommend PTFE or FEP. You can find those for chemical analytic equipment. Available with crazy specs when it comes to purity. Also the EL wire does degrade over time. UV light makes it worse but they only have a limited time of operation on its own before the fade out and get dim. Talking about dim, those EL wires aren't exactly super bright. They also require High voltage with medium frequency AC. Talking about a few kHz and 100 to 200V.

    If you want some glowing lines you may be best advised to use a string of led's inside a flexible tube (aforementioned fep/ptfe).

  • Maybe this should be more obvious to me, but “glow in the dark” tattoo ink that gets charged from uv light is already a thing. Why are we trying to put it in little glass tubes?

    My original idea was basically to make what looks very similar to a tattoo in the end result, that is, preferably with sharp defined edges, not the diffused edges created by shining light through skin, if at all possible.

    I suppose what would work best is a series of micro dots, little capsules, like E-Ink capsules, that light up like LEDs. And are injected into the skin in a similar manner to tattoo ink. Made to light up by a sort of mesh under the skin that is implanted that emits power to the lights above it. It would receive power from something else less complicated.

    I suppose that’s a bit beyond today’s micro sizing. But I’d be curious if anyone knows of suitably tiny LEDs, or any LEDs in a series that could be small enough to coat and implant. Or for that matter anything that can be safely implanted in a potentially high-movement area. Like a shoulder.

  • Why is that... funny...

  • @Jupiter how small would be "small enough". Like you can go to your favorite electronic distributor and buy a reel of 0201 sized led. A full reel usually contains 4000 led's and sells for about 200 bucks. They are about half a millimeter in size. The bigger question is how to connect those reliably in a flexible and safe manner. And yes those things are incredibly awesome and angry tiny glowing dots.

  • The "glow in the dark" tattoo ink that is supposed to be safe requires a black light to make them glow. I was talking about actual glow powder or ink which, as far as I know, is not safe for tattooing although some people have used it. UV light like from a black light charges it faster and makes it brighter than normal light but any light would work to charge it up and make it glow.

    The reason for the little glass tubes or other casing would be to allow the unsafe powder to be implanted. As I said before, I'm not sure the glow would still be visible if implanted and it wouldn't have sharp defined edges if it was. It wouldn't require any internal power if it did work though.

    These links might be closer to what you want although they wouldn't light up and don't actually exist yet but might give some more ideas.

    e-ink tattoo

    ZOMG E-Tattoos

  • I know this probably isn't the place to put it but has anyone actually made any glow in the dark ink that is safe. I've only read about phospher based or just blacklight stuff.

  • This is the glow in the dark powder I have which COULD be mixed with tattoo ink.


    It says that it is NON TOXIC but I doubt that it is really safe (or intended) for tattooing. It contains strontium aluminate which Wikipedia states is chemically and biologically inert. This powder uses europium as the dopant to make it glow which Wikipedia says has no significant biological role and is relatively non-toxic compared to other heavy metals.

    I'm very tempted to use it to tattoo a small dot or line just to see if it still glows and to see if there is any reaction to it but haven't done it yet and may not. I want to do some more experimenting to make sure I can sterilize this powder or an ink mixed with it to make sure it still glows before I make up my mind whether to try injecting any into my skin.

    As far as I can tell, there is no actual glow in the dark tattoo ink being sold but there are lots of places you can buy the blacklight ink. Who knows if any of it is completely safe though even if the seller says it is.

  • How about the Europium Ultra Glow powder sold by United Nuclear?

  • The United Nuclear Ultra Glow powder is probably similar if not identical to what I bought. I notice they list the MSDS on their site.


    I don't understand all of it but I did notice it may cause irritation to eyes, skin and mucous membranes which wouldn't be good for a tattoo but it also says it contains no carcinogens and is non toxic.

    On another site (http://www.skin-artists.com/tattoo-ink-poisoning.htm) I saw something that might be helpful for this "experiment":

    The best way to discover if you are allergic to tattooing ink is to have yourself tested prior to having a tattoo done. The way this works is that the tattoo artist takes a Q-tip and smears just a tiny bit of the different colors he/she will be using on you to the skin located under your arm. If you are in fact allergic to the ink, a reaction will begin to show within several minutes.

    When I mix up some of my glow powder, I will try this test before I do anything else.

  • One of the things I learned myself is that an MSDS listing of something being an irritant has drastically different implications from being exposed to the skin or put under the skin. >~<

    It looks innocent, but still like it's an irritant. I don't think it would be ideal to use on it's own, but I don't know. ;_;

    https://forum.biohack.me/index.php?p=/discussion/1398/thermotropic-augmented-facial-reactions/p1 here's this if anything here is useful information. There is a little bit of crossover, in theory.

  • What if there was a way to implant a UV light under a UV glow tattoo? You would see the glow of the light under the skin, as well as the shape of the tattoo above it.

  • @FireBreathingReptile said:
    The biggest issue with this is probably powering the implant. Alex Smith designed an implantable NFC-powered light, which used induction to power the light through the skin. Here's a video of it in use:
    Electroluminescent lights apparently require very high voltage, but little power. They could be powered with a battery (and are in lots of common electronic devices), but in order to do that they also need a converter circuit to up the voltage from what is supplied by the battery.

    Jesus fire-breathing lizards, do we know if there are any graphics or plans or designs for these?

  • Here's the thread with the NFC powered lights.

    I think it starts out as a cheap NFC fingernail sticker but Alex removed the LED and attached it to a ~1.5 inch wire and coated it in implant grade silicone.

  • Yeah, that thread got me all kinds of excited. I was looking to make something else/similar and that provided a way better suggestion. I'm trying to get my head around recreating it, but don't know the fist thing about sourcing silicone (or another useful encapsultion/potting). I want to check out Nusil, but it's not a simple cash-and-go.

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