Adding working lights is a fun way to take a Lego creation to the next level, and the company even includes light-up features on some of its sets, including a glowing Christmas tree. But this clever hack makes integrating lighting into a build impossibly easy thanks to the same technology that makes wireless charging possible.
Lego’s approach to illuminating elements involves a battery-powered brick with an LED inside that’s bright enough to glow through other transparent elements. In the recent Santa’s Visit holiday set, the LED brick sits inside a Christmas tree but its glow can be seen from the outside through transparent tiles that act as Christmas lights. There are after-market lighting solutions for Lego as well, but they use transparent elements upgraded with tiny LEDs that are connected to a power source through very thin wires. With proper planning, those wires can be mostly hidden away, but not completely, and they can be fragile, so taking a Lego Batmobile for a spin with working headlights may not be the best idea.
YouTuber Cultural Gutural has come up with a potentially better way to illuminate a Lego build that minimizes wires and building restrictions, and the hardware is cheap and readily available online. Inside a wireless phone charger is a coil of wire that when powered can induce a current in a nearby coil without touching it. It’s what allows smartphones and wireless earbuds to charge wirelessly, and why the technology is also often referred to as inductive charging. It doesn’t provide enough energy to power a device like a smartphone without a battery, but it can easily power smaller electronics, like low-energy LEDs.
This $US20 ($28) kit on AliExpress includes wirelessly powered LEDs that are small enough to insert into transparent Lego bricks (not flat panels) and when placed near a thin power coil, they’ll glow all on their own. As Cultural Gutural demonstrates in this video, the light-up bricks can be mixed with other bricks, and even stacked eight bricks tall while still glowing. The farther the tiny LEDs get from the included power coil the less their intensity becomes, but multiple coils could be integrated into a display base, or even into a larger model itself, expanding the range of the wireless power delivery.
Unfortunately, while the idea was submitted to the Lego Ideas platform — where builders can share their custom creations with the potential that the company will turn them into real sets if there’s enough fan support — Lego ultimately rejected the submission citing the platform’s strict rules that forbid non-existing Lego bricks and parts. It may very well inspire Lego to pursue creating its own take on LEDO (as this maker calls them) one day, but until that time it’s thankfully a fairly simple and straightforward upgrade that’s cheaper than most Lego sets.