This Digital Lava Lamp Has Tons of Mesmerizing LED Lighting Effects

Lava lamps have been dazzling kooky decor enthusiasts for decades now with their undulating amorphous blobs, and have rightly earned their status as a pop culture staple. But, as cool as they are, they really only do one thing. That's why Julian Butler decided to build his own digital LED lava lamp with all kinds of different lighting effects.

Butler was inspired to start this project after seeing a colleague's Lava Ion music-detecting mood light. The Ion lamp was successfully launched through Kickstarter almost five years ago, but they're currently out of stock on the Lava website, and it doesn't appear that they intend to produce anymore. So, Butler decided he'd build his own from scratch.

He wanted to mimic the style of the Ion, and so he started with a clear, cylindrical glass vase as the main body of his design. Inside of that is a PVC tube, onto which an array of NeoPixel individually-addressable RGB LEDs is mounted. Those LEDs are driven by an Adafruit FadeCandy controller board, and powered by a separate 10A 5V switching power supply.

To create the various lighting effects, Butler connected a Raspberry Pi and turned to Processing used in conjunction with the FadeCandy code libraries. He ran into some issues with the orientation caused by his non-standard LED array layout, but was eventually able to get them working correctly by altering some software parameters. With the orientation setup correctly, he could create all kinds of lighting effects, from standard lava lamp styles to more complex fire effects.

With the electronics all sorted out, Butler moved on to finishing the enclosure. First, he layered frosted acrylic on the inside of the glass to diffuse the LEDs. Then he used a combination of wood and an upcycled metal lamp shade with nice perforations to build the base.

The finished lamp looks every bit as nice as the Ion lamp did, and has the added benefit of completely customizable effects

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