Electroluminescence is a technology that’s been around for decades and that currently shows up in items used every day, such as night-lights and billboards, car dashboards and watches. Briefly and inadequately described, it’s a non-thermal conversion of electrical energy into visible light. I won’t attempt to go any further in explaining how it all works, since I’m in no way qualified to speak with any authority on these matters, but while roaming Main Street during Daytona Bike Week 2013 we got word that Darkside Scientific LLC. was in town displaying a motorcycle that showcased an unprecedented step forward in electroluminescent technology: a coating system that glows.
Back in September 2012 MotoUSA Cruiser Editor, Bryan Harley, profiled Darkside and their partnership with Cleveland Cycle Werks, the first manufacturer to sign-on to offer the electroluminescent coating, known as LumiLor, as a custom option. We’d seen earlier manifestations of the product in small doses, but the buzz at Daytona was that Darkside had brought a bike with a full tank and rear fender bathed in other-worldly light. It was an opportunity that we just couldn’t miss, so we cut through the crowd and were amazed by what we saw.
Tucked inside the Main Street Station was a Cleveland CycleWerks Heist motorcycle, glowing bright, vibrant green. There were no cords running to an outlet, no visible battery packs hanging off the sides and seemingly no explanation for the illuminated pieces that drew spectators from all corners. After we got closer, we found an intricately painted dragon’s head grinning on the tank, with all the detail and finish of any more traditional, world-class custom air-brush job out there. Except on this bike every line, every color, every feature of the paint is illuminated as if there were some high-powered bulb radiating from underneath.
The mastermind behind this remarkable technology is Ohioan, Andy Zsinko, an aftermarket painter with over 25 years of experience who developed the idea for LumiLor in 2009 while sharing a beer with his pals.
During that fateful day four years ago, Zsinko had just completed a special glow-in-the-dark paint job for a friend, but was unhappy about the short life and lack of control of the glow. This frustration prompted Zsinko to begin the search for a solution to the questions, “what if I could control the light, and what if I could make it shine brightly for hours?”
Soon after, he set to work creating a rough version of what would eventually become LumiLor. By June 2010 Zsinko had a prototype formula which he used on a 1976 Kawasaki Police 1000, painting the album cover of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon on the rear box of the machine. After he finished he took the bike to a hotel in Berea, Ohio to meet up with a group of friends and when they saw iconic rainbow jutting from the prism flicker to life their jaws hit the floor.
Shawn Mastrian, CEO of Darkside Scientific LLC, was there that night and was instantly intrigued. It didn’t take long before the two men formed a business partnership to bring LumiLor to the market, and Darkside was born.
“What Andy showed me in that parking lot was something I had never seen before,” said Mastrian. “I just thought the technology was cool, and wanted to help my friend be successful with it. I never dreamed of all the real-world applications we now believe the product to have.”
While chatting on a side-street in downtown Daytona, Mastrian offered some explanation on how LumiLor works, from a practical standpoint. “We have a coating system we put in place and it goes on like normal paint, using air-gun technology.” It goes on beneath any finish and is a “white system that you can turn into any color you want to, you can dip-coat it, top coat it, put chrome on top of it.”
From a safety standpoint, riders will benefit from improved visibility at night and in terms of aesthetics they’ll have an entirely new way to display the artwork that adorns their bike. LumiLor is also extremely versatile, meaning there are almost no limits to how and where the coating can be used.
LumiLor can be applied to wood, fiberglass, plastics and metal (with a primer first) and it becomes one with the surface to which it’s applied. The glow is achieved via simple driver electronics and the few wires needed to link the paint to the battery are easily hidden during finishing. It can be customized to respond to sound, to flash in sequenced or strobed patterns and it’s environmentally safe, using aqueous-based and non-toxic materials.
“The trick to LumiLor was to turn a highly controlled process (used to make EL panels) into something a professional painter can apply with current air gun technology,” explained Zsinko. “With a little research into advanced materials, some time perfecting techniques, and appropriate amounts of serendipity, I was able to unlock the secret.”
Zsinko was tight-lipped about what, exactly, is in the formula of the coating, and for good reason. He and Mastrian worked through numerous iterations of LumiLor over the four years since that night in Berea before finding that right mix, a challenge that has bested other companies for more than a decade.
The usable life of the LumiLor coating is estimated at over 50,000 hours, equating to almost six years, and since it’s not likely to be run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, a coating of LumiLor is poised to last a very long time.
Shawn and Andy made the guerilla debut of LumiLor during Bike Week 2013, with no special tents or displays apart from the glowing bike rolling down Main Street. People were amazed by the bike because it was immediately recognizable as something really special amid the festivities on Main Street.
“It’s the world’s first electroluminescent coating system, and we’re getting some phenomenal response,” continued Mastrian. “People have never seen something like this before because something like this has never existed before.”
Darkside is currently training additional technicians so LumiLor can become more widely available and are currently looking for any and all creative ideas, within the motorcycling realm and beyond, to showcase the technology. If you’re interested in contacting Andy or Shawn, and learning more about LumiLor, go to www.lumilor.com.