The science of glow sticks

I stumbled across this randomly on YouTube today and had to share. The first 3/4 of the video are a chemistry experiment breakdown of what goes into a glow stick and what each of those ingredients is meant to do. But what makes me LOVE it is that, at the end, all of this coalesces into a fine explanation of the difference between light-absorbing dyes and fluorescent dyes. Come for the glow-stick "how to", stay for the better understanding of how light works and how it influences what you see!

Video Link


  1. Thanks for clearing that up. I had no idea what was in the glass tube that activated the fluorescent dye. Now I know that it’s the same thing that makes me glow.

  2. I’ve been wanting edible glowing food for a while. Best I’ve been able to find is fluorescent food :(

  3. What the artist in me can’t help wondering is, is it possible to mix dyes, or are there other dyes? Also, is it possible to slow the rate of decay by freezing the mixtures? Probably not, and I realize they’ll always decay, but I can’t help wanting to experiment.

  4. What’s with the narrator’s voice?  It sounds like it’s been electronically modified down a register.  It reminds me of the drama that Jonathan Goldstein of WireTap fame portayed when he lowered his voice to “get ratings.”  A great episode!

    I hope people don’t feel the need to change their voice just to sound more “authoritative” — that’s just plain silly.

  5. Here are my synthesis trials (sorry, partly in German; but with pictures and some links to “English speaking” pages ):
    I synthesized TCPO (what is mentioned in a other video of that guy):
    Later I tried a bigger run
    where I got a yield of about 47 g of TCPO
    I had to invest 125.63 swiss franks (CHF) for the stuff….

    A other nice reaction is the chemiluminescence of luminol in alkaline DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide)  which is here


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