The Chemistry of Glow Sticks

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Introduction
Glow sticks are an important part of everyday life.  One could not live without glow sticks.  This may sound silly, but even the experts will agree with me.  Glow sticks are sometimes relied upon for military use, police use, fire use, and EMS operations, along with the recreational uses. My life is affected by these magical luminescent tubes in many positive ways.  They have enhances nearly all of my in-the-dark experiences.  Everything is more fun with glow sticks!

Composition of ...
Glow sticks contain fluorescent dyes called sensitizer and and fluouphor. The dyes are mixed with hydrogen peroxide and contained in a plastic tube.


The chemicals in glow sticks can be combined in certain ways to have a brighter glow for a short period of time or a dim glow for a longer time. When I was a child, my mom would always put glow sticks in the freezer after I finished using them. Little did I know, there was a chemical explanation of that act. Putting the glow stick in a cooler environment slows down the reaction which creates a dimmer glow that will last longer. In contrast, placing the glow stick in a hotter environment will exaggerate the glow but will shorten the lifespan.



Chemistry's Role

Glow sticks contain fluorescent dyes called sensitizer and and fluouphor. The dyes are mixed with hydrogen peroxide and contained in a plastic tube.

There are three major components to glow sticks.There’s the dye, which gives it the color. Then there’s the two chemicals that react to give the dye its light. A common combination of chemicals is hydrogen peroxide and phenyl oxalate ester, plus the fluorescent dye.

The chemicals in glow sticks can be combined in certain ways to have a brighter glow for a short period of time or a dim glow for a longer time. When I was a child, my mom would always put glow sticks in the freezer after I finished using them. Little did I know, there was a chemical explanation of that act. Putting the glow stick in a cooler environment slows down the reaction which creates a dimmer glow that will last longer. In contrast, placing the glow stick in a hotter environment will exaggerate the glow but will shorten the lifespan.

Background Research

Glow sticks are used for a variety of purposes. Glow sticks are plastic tubes that have a glass vial inside them that contain the components listed above. To activate the glow, you have to bend the tube, which breaks the glass vial and triggers the chemical reaction.

Resources


About the Author

Chloe Rector is a junior at Billings Senior High School and participates in soccer and track. She will continue her soccer career at University of Montana in the fall of 2013. She works at the baseball field selling concessions during the summer, and tutors throughout the school year and summer. Chloe currently has a GPA of 3.9 and hopes to maintain that by passing this chemistry assignment. She loves to shop but hates spending money and loves the color purple.
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