Behind the Scenes of how Glow Sticks Work?
By Cade S.

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figure 1. Good outdoor or creepy lighting.

Glow sticks are used for many great things. instead of light bulb, which have to be plugged and wired in, a glow stick is portable. It can be used in parties, Halloween decorations or as a light source. Glow sticks have been in production for 25 years. They are a good outdoor source of light because it doesn't take batteries and that has many other uses as well such as being able to use them underwater, which makes them a great tool for scuba divers. Have you ever wondered on how they actually glow? The glow sticks light up from a production of chemiluminescence, and science. some

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figure 2. Process of a Glow Stick.

Chemiluminescence is a molecule that can hold enough internal energy to produce

with it the chemicals create a new compound to create light photons, which light it up. The fireflies’ effects are very similar of the glow stick, except in the glow it creates its chemiluminescence and then creates light photons to light up the glow stick. Fluorescence or phosphorescence. Some molecules live off of chemilumenescence such as bioluminescence. Some things such as a firefly use this. The firefly has chemicals in its compound and when
meets up

How it Works
Inside of the glow stick there are two separate chambers. There is a glass vile which is inside of the plastic outside that holds chemicals and there is the space between the glass vile and the plastic cylinder holds more chemicals. When you bend the stick it breaks the glass vile which then mixes the two chemicals. Inside of the glass vile it contains a hydrogen peroxide solution. Hydrogen peroxide solution is known as an activator because it is able to activate other chemicals. On the outer edges of the glass vile there is a phenyl oxalate ester and a dye solution which determines the color of which the stick glows. You trigger the light by bending the tube and snapping the glass vile and the two chemicals mix. Once they mix they set of a chemical reaction and make light photons, which store enough energy to emit light.

How a glow stick gets its light photons is like this. When two atoms get heated up they start to speed up. When they are at a high speed they collide with each other. If the hit of the two atoms were excited enough then they will transfer some of their energy to the other atoms electrons which boost the energy level which is when it gets father from the atoms nucleus. Then the electron falls back towards the nucleus it spreads its energy and creates light photons which light up the area where the stick was broken.

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figure 3. Homemade diagram.

Another thing that uses atoms and electrons to form light is a neon sign. the neon sign is the OPEN sign that you see outside of a restaurant or store.


Bioluminescence: chemiluminescence inside of a living orgasm.

Fluorescence: the radiation of visible light

Nucleus: the positively charged mass within an atom.


Brain, Marshal, ‘How More Stuff Work.” New York: Wiley Pub, 2003.

Robyn V. Young, ’World of Chemistry.” Detroit: Gale group, 2000.

Tom Harris. “How Light Sticks Work. 1998-2012 How Stuff works, inc, 2001. Web, Sept. 27.

"Chemiluminescence." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online School Edition.
Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2012. Web. 28 Sept. 2012.