How does a Glow Stick work?
By: Kathryn D.
Year 2011

What is a Glow Stick?
A glow stick is a plastic tube containing a glass vial, two chemicals, and fluorescent dye. The glass vial contains phenyl oxalate and the plastic tube contains hydrogen peroxide and fluorescent dye solution.

How does it work?
Glow sticks are a chemical reaction formed by phenyl oxalate, hydrogen peroxide, and fluorescent dye. When you break the glass vial by bending the glow stick in half, it causes the phenyl oxalate to release into the plastic tube. When the two chemicals mix together, it causes a chemical reaction that creates energy. Then the fluorescent dye turns the energy into light.

What is chemical reaction?
Chemical reaction is when two or more chemicals mix to form a product. Chemical reactions are written in a chemical equation. Chemical reactions have a reaction rate. The substance, temperature, and amount can affect the reaction rate. The glow stick is affected by temperature.

How do prove the Reaction Rate?
If you put the glow stick in the freezer or microwave, there will be a different reaction rate then a regular glow stick. When it’s been frozen it will take longer to react to the chemical reaction and it will last longer. Plus it won’t be as bright. If you put the glow stick in the microwave it will cause the chemical reaction to react more quickly and it will only last a short period of time. Plus it will be as brighter.
This picture shows how long the glow sticks can last.

Are electrons involved with the glow stick?

Yes, here is the process. Electrons are floating around with a normal amount of energy. Some electrons get excited and have lots of energy. Eventually they will return to having a normal amount of energy. To do this, they give off energy in the form of light. This light is called photons.

What color is hydrogen peroxide and what is it used for?

You may think that the color of the glow stick is effected by hydrogen peroxide. You are wrong. The fluorescent dye effects the color of the glow stick. Pure hydrogen peroxide is clear. Hydrogen peroxide is used for bleaching cotton, wood pulp, and other textiles, in the process of manufacturing. When it’s combined with other compounds, it makes crystalline solids. Crystalline solids are used in laundry detergents.

When was the first glow stick invented?

The first glow stick was invented in 1970. They are used for Halloween treats, toys for children, and parties.

At what temperature does the hydrogen peroxide freeze?

Hydrogen Peroxide freezes at -0.43 degrees Celsius.


Chemical Reaction- the process of one or more substances converting to form new substances with different properties.

Reactants- are the substances that enter a chemical reaction.

Products- are the substances created by chemical reaction.

Chemical equation- is an expression using chemical symbols to represent a chemical reaction.

Glass Vial- a glass tube containing chemicals.

Fluorescent dye- is ink that dyes the solution in a glow stick a certain color.

This picture shows what colors the glow stick can turn by fluresecent dye

This picture show what glow sticks are made with.
This picture shows the process of cracking the glow stick to make it glow

Encyclopedia of Science. Broadway, NY: Macmillian, 1997. Print. Citation (MLA)

Physical Science Series: Chemical Reactions. Prod. Brian Jerome. Brian Jerome, 1998. Discovery Education. Web. 23 September 2011. <>.

Video Quiz: Chemical Reactions. Prod. Brian Jerome. Brian Jerome, 1998. Discovery Education. Web. 23 September 2011. <>.