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How Do Glow Sticks Work?

Posted by ARNOLD YU on March 31, 2009.

Who knew that a tiny tube of color could create art that dazzles its’ beholders?

At every rave, we see light shows that stimulate and excite us as we dance the night away.

But did you ever stop to think about how this little plastic tube of liquid actually produces its’ neon brilliance?

The mystery behind the glow stick is quite simple, really. There are typically three liquids within the tube: hydrogen peroxide, phenyl oxalate ester, and a fluorescent dye of whatever color the glow stick will be. When you snap the tube, you are breaking the barrier between all three liquids. The first two chemicals react, and release energy. The electrons in the fluorescent dye then get “excited” and absorb that energy for a while. When the electrons release that extra energy, it is emitted as light.

And that light, ladies and gentleman, is the “glow” in glowstick.

Now, for those of you who yawned at the first scientific term in this article and skimmed till the last paragraph, here is a simple equation for you: 2 chemicals + 1 dye = an explosion of color that will keep you mesmerized for the next 24 hours.


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