How Do Glow Sticks Work?



Brain stuff. This is Christian Sagar you have seen glow sticks before I. Bet they bring a festive glow to Halloween trick or treating and New Year's eve celebrations, and they are a useful gear for explorers from scuba divers to spinnakers. When you find a bunch of people gathered at a party in the dark at least a few of them will probably be wielding glow sticks. But what the heck are these things and how do they work? Well, glow sticks are powered by process called Cama luminescence don't let the name scare you luminescence is just a fancy word for any emission of light not caused by heating we see luminescence and stuff like TV's neon. Signs and firefly's the chem luminescence in glow sticks is a pretty simple reaction caused by mixing chemical compounds. Compounds are made up of different elements bonded together in specific proportions so that they can't be mechanically separated. It takes a chemical reaction to sort out for example, the oxygen from the hydrogen and water. When you mix a compound with other stuff, you can set off that reaction and as the atoms rearrange themselves either absorb all release energy. If you look inside a glow stick, you'll see that there's a small glass vile in the tube. This file typically contains a hydrogen peroxide solution called the activator it's floating in a solution containing a compound called phenyle oxalate. Ester and a fluorescent dye you still with me. Okay. When you snap a glow, stick the vial breaks in the Hydrogen Peroxide reacts with the phenyle oxalate Ester creating to other compounds phenyle and a pair oxy acid ester. Okay. Still with me again. Okay. This para oxy acid stuff is unstable. So it decomposes and produces additional finol. It also produces a cyclic Perry compound which decomposes to carbon dioxide. This decomposition releases energy to the die the electrons in the atoms jump to a higher level than fall back down releasing energy in the form of light the other in the fluorescent dye, determine the color of this light all this happens within moments of snapping. And shaking your glow stick depending on which compounds are used, the chemical reaction can continue for anywhere from just a few minutes to hours warmer temperatures will accelerate the reaction making the stick glow brighter. But for a shorter amount of time when it's cooler, the reaction will slow down making the light dimmer, which means that if you want to preserve your light stick, put it in the freezer overnight, it won't stop the process, but it will slow it down and drag out the reaction. So it turns out that there's some pretty nifty science behind the humble glow stick check it out the next time you're scuba diving partying or you know whatever it is you.

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