History Of Glow Sticks: Why They're Popular, How They Work And More | Kidadl


History Of Glow Sticks: Why They're Popular, How They Work And More

Arts & Crafts
Learn more
Reading & Writing
Learn more
Math & Logic
Learn more
Sports & Active
Learn more
Music & Dance
Learn more
Social & Community
Learn more
Mindful & Reflective
Learn more
Outdoor & Nature
Learn more
Read these Tokyo facts to learn all about the Japanese capital.

The glow stick is known by several names such as light stick, chem light, light wand, light rod, and rave light.

Glow sticks are one example of chemiluminescence. Chemiluminescence is a phenomenon that is quite similar to bioluminescence.

Glow sticks are nothing but plastic batons filled with chemicals that react to produce visible light energy. The shelf life of these chemical light products can vary depending on the packaging and storage. What makes glow sticks more interesting is their dye, which is able to preserve their fluorescence even when they are exposed to UV lights. When used light sticks are put under black light, they can still glow. Fascinating, right? According to some records, glow sticks were first seen at a gig in 1971. The son of a factory worker brought a bag full of glow sticks to a concert at the Yale Ball in New Haven, Connecticut. Halfway through the concert, people started going berserk with these lights. Apparently, the boy was recruited by American Cyanamid which was one of the top chemical manufacturing companies, to make glow sticks. They are now being used in almost every field as they are waterproof, weatherproof and are able to withstand high pressures. We have curated a bunch of interesting facts about glow sticks. Keep reading! Once you have finished reading this article you can also check out our other articles on 1960 inventions and 1927 inventions.

History of Glow Sticks

The first glow stick was made by Dr. Edwin Chandross, a Brooklyn born specialist in organic chemistry in the '60s. People have different theories as to why glow sticks were invented.

It is widely assumed that they were made as emergency flares and for other recreational purposes. However, the scientist had nothing complex on his mind while inventing the glow stick. He was captivated by the idea that fireflies emit light and glow naturally. He only desired to imitate fireflies. Many other scientists have improved on Edwin's innovation throughout the years. Dr. Edwin Chandross was initially intrigued by chemiluminescence. His interest was piqued by the luminol experiment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After graduation, he fumbled through countless experiments until he landed on his one brilliant experiment that helped him discover the gateway to chemiluminescence. He reasoned that per oxalate and esters were the most important components. He wanted to put his idea to the test by developing a substance that, when mixed with hydrogen peroxide, would provide an active component. This demanded the usage of two components. One important component was chloride (a volatile oxalic acid derivative). After successfully identifying the initial ingredient, he went through a series of updated trials to find the optimal luminescence-producing mixture after synthesizing a test chemical that lit up gently.

Did you know? Today, the US Department of Defense is the largest glow stick user. They are used in place of other lights due to their durability and lightweight nature.

Glow Stick Science

The science behind the glow stick is actually fun.

Glow sticks have chemicals, like fluorescent pigments and hydrogen peroxide, that help them trap potential energy. These ingredients in the glow stick have to be combined in order to produce light. Usually, a chemical reaction will produce heat, but here, the chemical energy is transformed into light energy when the chemical reactions occur within the glow stick. The degree of brightness is determined by the surrounding temperature.

When chemical compounds are stimulated and made to come back to their original or normal level, they release energy in the form of light. This is how chemiluminescence occurs. A glow stick is a transparent plastic tube. In the inner layer, there is a glass tube in which hydrogen peroxide is present. There is another solution in the glow stick made of sodium salicylate (base), a fluorescent dye, and diphenyl oxalate surrounding the inner glass tube. The compound in the inner layer is combined with phenyl oxalate ester to produce phenol and per oxyacid ester.

As this chemical reaction occurs simultaneously, the per oxyacid breaks down. The decomposition releases energy that activates the fluorescent color of the glow stick. The dye has electrons that are elevated and start releasing photons.

Have you ever wondered why breaking and tossing a glow stick makes it glow brighter? This is due to the fact that when you break or shake the glow stick, the chemicals in the glass vial within the glow stick combine faster than usual in a brief span of time. The glow stick shines brightly due to the emission of powerful energy. The amounts of chemicals in the glow stick also affect the brightness and duration of the glow.

The glow stick is known by several names

Effects of Temperature on Glow Sticks

Glow sticks have chemicals that react with each other. Chemical reactions are affected that are either quickened or slowed when exposed to different temperatures. The glow of a glow stick lasts till the chemical reaction is completed.

Temperature influences the glow of chemical compounds in the glow stick. When glow sticks are exposed to cold temperatures, the chemical process is slowed down. In the absence of heat, the molecules are slower and collide less. You are effectively delaying or interrupting the chemical reaction when you attempt to freeze a glow stick. This is true not only for glow sticks but for all glow products. Extending the glow process comes with a downside. Since the reaction is slow, the glow of light generated is significantly faint. However, in cold temperatures, the glow stick lasts long.

The exact opposite happens when glow sticks are exposed to hot or warmer conditions. When a glow stick is placed in a hot region, the energy levels of the molecules in the two chemicals in the glow stick are elevated. This means they collide more at a quick pace. This reaction causes the glow stick to glow much brighter. However, this only lasts for a while as you're speeding up the glow process by exposing the glow stick to heat and, like previously said, the glow dies out once the chemical reaction is completed.

Did you know? Despite the temperature changes, glow sticks can still perform well in both hot and cold climates when the concentrations of the chemicals within the glow stick are changed to achieve the desired result. When the maximum concentration is used, it allows the glow stick to produce large amounts of light, as the reaction between the base and other chemicals is quite furious.

The Inventors of Glow Sticks

The first glow stick was originally invented by Edwin A Chandross.

His work was developed by other scientists to create many other glow stick devices. Based on the works of Edwin A. Chandross of Bell Labs, Cyalume, a solid ester responsible for chemiluminescence was invented by Michael M. Rauhut, Laszlo J. Bollyky, and Robert W. Sombathy in 1971.

Modern Glow Stick Usage

Glow sticks can be used for a variety of reasons. Initially, they were used as a signaling device. Now they are used for both recreational and survival purposes.

Glows ticks are commonly seen in survival kits. They've been utilized in the military for a long time. In close-quarter combat, military forces use glow sticks to identify a specific region when clearing buildings. They are used as zone markers and target markers. It aids in distinguishing an ally from an opponent during nighttime operations. Glow sticks are used as backup emergency lights.

A glow stick does not produce heat. Light bulbs on the other hand can get heated up quickly. This makes glow sticks an excellent replacement for light bulbs and a reliable light source in natural disasters. Glow sticks have become the life of night parties. They are used for Halloween decorations and costumes. Golfers also seem to be interested in glow sticks. They use glow sticks to illuminate their clubs and make glowing golf balls.

Glow sticks are also making headlines in art performances. Artists have invented a particular form of dance called glow sticking. They use glow sticks and other LED lights to make their performances more attractive. Glow sticks are being painted to make catchy art pieces. Such paint, when used on ceilings, can last for 10- 12 years. Glow sticks are have replaced candles in carol services and choir performances as they are a much safer choice for children.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for the history of glow sticks, then why not take a look at 2000 technology inventions or 1966 inventions?

Written By
Joan Agie

<p>With 3+ years of research and content writing experience across several niches, especially on education, technology, and business topics. Joan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Anatomy from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, and has worked as a researcher and writer for organizations across Nigeria, the US, the UK, and Germany. Joan enjoys meditation, watching movies, and learning new languages in her free time.</p>

Read The Disclaimer

Was this article helpful?