Crazy Light Patters Using an LED and a Mini Booze Bottle

Crazy light pattern from LED light refracted through a bottle

I’d say I’m well on my way to creating my own Eye of Sauron

I had a burning desire to create some sort of electronics project with mini alcohol bottles (the ones you find in hotel rooms). My first instinct was to make them light up using LEDs. Since most are clear glass, light simply passes right through the bottle’s walls. However, the bottom is often curved, presenting a concave surface.  If you shone an LED through the bottle’s mouth, the curved glass acted as a perfect lens to refract the light, which further focused the already-narrow beam from the LED. In effect, you could only see the LED’s full brightness by looking at the bottle’s bottom straight on.

LED and bottle test setup

Then, a coworker suggested a brilliant idea (terrible pun intended): shine the light from the bottle onto a wall or sheet of paper. I decided give it a shot with an orange LED and an empty mini bottle. With the sheet of paper touching the bottle, the bottle’s underside markings were projected onto the paper.

Makeshift rear projection with LED and bottle

The more interesting effects came when I moved the sheet of paper away from the bottle. I expected to be able to focus the light into a point or small sliver, but it seemed the focal point of the bottle was not quite right for this effect. Instead, I was presented with a dazzling burst effect thanks to the refraction of the bottle. I wonder what other kinds of shapes can be made with different bottles.

Bottle refracts LED light


Have you had any luck bending LED light? What other ordinary objects do you recommend using to refract light into cool patterns?

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