How Do Glow Sticks Work

By | November 2, 2010

Though glow sticks were invented 25 years ago, they are still popular and are being used. They are plastic tubes which emit light. They are used by many people throughout the world. Many do not know how they work.

Glow sticks provide strong light without using any battery or electricity. And, they are perfect safety lights because they are cheap, provide glow and they are portable. They glow because of the chemical reaction. Glow sticks have mixture of some chemicals like hydrogen peroxide solution and a solution containing phenyl oxalate ester and a fluorescent dye. Glow stick glows as a result of reactions of these chemicals. The reaction of two compounds, hydrogen peroxide oxidizes the phenyl oxalate ester, results in a unstable phenol acid ester. Additional phenol and a cyclic peroxy compound result from the decomposition of unstable compound. Cyclic peroxy compound decomposes to carbon dioxide, the energy is released by this decomposition process and the electrons in the atoms jump to a higher level, then come back to their original state, then energy is released by this in the form light.

There are two solutions the phenyl oxalate ester and dye solution in the stick in separate chambers, and hydrogen peroxide solution is held in smaller glass vial in the middle of the stick, so glow stick must be bent to activate.

If enough compounds are used then glow sticks can glow for hours. Most of the commercial glow sticks last for 30 minutes and heating the glow sticks will cause it to glow brighter, but it will become dim sooner. The light can last for several days by freezing the glow sticks.

So according to above information, glow sticks can work or provide light by mixing the chemicals.