Sciencemadness Discussion Board

'Glowstick' chemistry

cyclonite4 - 29-3-2005 at 21:18

Upon recently receiving a stack of glowsticks (the things that you bend, and they glow for a certain period of time), I became curious as to how they work.

I figured they would be based on a chemical reaction with 2 components, the compound in the glass tube, and the compounds in the outer plastic tube.

I looked up and found a howstuffworks article on the subject, and found out that the compound in the glass tube is hydrogen peroxide, and the other component is phenyl oxalate ester.

From this I thought of two things:
1. If the hydrogen peroxide is strong (say 30%+ maybe?), then it could be a potential source.
2. The article mentions a by product is phenol, so maybe phenol could be retrieved from spent glowsticks (which can be found aplenty after raves and what not). :)


HNO3 - 29-3-2005 at 21:45

Unfortunately all light sticks aren't created the same. Some light sticks have two complex organic molecules reacting to produce light.

cyclonite4 - 30-3-2005 at 02:34

Any ideas on what these molecules may be?

sparkgap - 30-3-2005 at 08:29

I'm more inclined to the guess that the crystals in the glow-sticks are triboluminescent; that is to say, they glow when you apply stress of any sort to the crystals.

But maybe your glow-sticks are different. I see no sloshing liquid in mine. :D

sparky (^_^)

[Edited on 30-3-2005 by sparkgap]


Hermes_Trismegistus - 30-3-2005 at 11:12

If I may, I was all hot and bothered a few months back about synthing some luminescent chems. I beleive i made a boast about glowing by christmas or some such before getting sidetracked by a somewhat poor performance in my physics midterm and cutting out the extra-curriculars.

I did do a fair bit of research, and found a sticking point in the form of pthalic of the pre-precursors for luminol.

I wish you the best of luck and here is a little help?

Attachment: Cyalume.doc.pdf (118kB)
This file has been downloaded 6016 times

luminol synth

Hermes_Trismegistus - 30-3-2005 at 11:16


Attachment: luminol synth.doc (42kB)
This file has been downloaded 1743 times


cyclonite4 - 30-3-2005 at 19:15

Thanks for the files Hermes... quite interesting. :)

Still, it seems the definition from howstuffworks sticks. Cyalume is a phenyl oxalate ester [Bis(2,4,6-trichlorophenyl)oxalate], and the reaction involves Hydrogen Peroxide.

Noone would happen to know the concentrations of reactants in the glowsticks would they?

Luminescent Chemosensors: from Molecules to Nanoparticles

solo - 6-4-2005 at 07:50

Hopefully not off topic: I read this article and this thread came to mind......solo
Luminescent Chemosensors: from Molecules to Nanoparticles
Luca Prodi
New J. Chem., 2005, (1), 20 - 31
DOI: 10.1039/b411758a

The need to develop sensors for different target analytes is well-recognised and confirmed by the considerable research efforts spent for the preparation of more and more efficient sensory devices. In our laboratories we have been working on this subject for the past few years and in this contribution some selected examples of the systems we have studied will be presented. Through the discussed compounds, the reader will be able to follow our step-by-step approach towards this fascinating research field. The first essential move for a fruitful strategy in the development of efficient macroscopic sensory devices is a thorough understanding of the systems responsible for the binding event and of its consequent transduction into a detectable signal. These species are often molecular or supramolecular structures that behave as molecular-level sensory devices, which are usually referred to as chemosensors. Among them, fluorescence-based chemosensors present many interesting features, such as high sensitivity and versatility. Starting from this first and fundamental step our aims and future perspectives will be presented. There is still a great demand for ever more efficient chemosensors; nanostructured systems such as nanoparticles, in which signal amplification can be obtained, will certainly play a very important role in this field. For this reason this contribution concludes with a section on the results obtained on nanoparticles, which are the natural carry-over of our research work.


Chaoslord - 1-4-2006 at 02:49

Basically (and in general) you need two things :

A (un)substituted Diphenyl oxalate + a dye

Plus H2O2 with cat. ammounts of NaOH

If needed, I can post further about this subject

a_bab - 1-4-2006 at 06:29

The luminol only lasts about 30 seconds or so.

The stuff in the light sticks is 9,10-bis(phenylethynyl)anthracene, and the glass tube has H2O2. Attached is a document with some stuff about chemoluminiscence.

@Sparky: The triboluminiscence phenomena is very short; the light output takes just a few fractions of a ms (while the crystal is in a "bent" state)

Attachment: chem light.txt (9kB)
This file has been downloaded 1904 times

EtherBunny - 1-4-2006 at 16:50

This is a little off-topic, but a_bab, where did you get that document? It says anthracene is very toxic. Actually, it's not anywhere as bad as some other polyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (people in my lab work with anthracenes and friends a lot) and is much less reactive than benzenoids and napthalenes.

One of the interesting things about anthracene is that it's quite fluorescent (yellow-green) in its pure form. So is phenanthrene (blue). Rubrene is also a really neat compound. It's extremely red in its pure form, hence the name, but I do not know if it fluoresces at all...

a_bab - 2-4-2006 at 12:10

I can't remember; it's a compilation of different stuff from the web. The antracene is so carcinogenic that it is entitled so in the chemistry manuals from the 50's. As about the toxicity, I don't know; in the light sticks ithey use an antracene compound, which would change the matters a bit.

EtherBunny - 2-4-2006 at 17:12

Huh. I've actually never read about anthracenes being carcinogenic to any great degree. Benzanthracenes, yes, but not straight-up anthracene.