make glow sticks, how to make glow sticks

How to Make Glow Sticks Yourself — Backed by Science!

Read Time: 3 minutes

Everyone loves glow sticks. Unfortunately, they stop glowing after a few hours and leave us wanting more.

But did you know you can make your own glow sticks? That’s right, and we’re not talking about those ridiculous viral videos that tell you to mix hydrogen peroxide and Mountain Dew. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t work!

Nope, we’ve gathered together a few techniques you can use to make your own glow sticks at home, and it’s backed by science.


IMPORTANT NOTE: This experiment does involve potentially dangerous chemicals. Always use proper safety precautions, wear gloves and eye protection, and always work in a well-ventilated area.  Keep chemicals away from children and pets. As cool as a glow stick can be, safety should be your number one priority.


Making Authentic Glow Sticks

Glow sticks get their glow from a chemical reaction that occurs when you break the glass tube inside the glow stick to allow the two chemicals to mix. If you want to make your own authentic glow sticks, you will need a few chemicals first.

You will need five ingredients:

  1. Hydrogen Peroxide
  2. Luminal
  3. Sodium Hydroxide
  4. Potassium Ferricyanide
  5. Water

You should also collect a beaker or other mixing container, and something to stir with.

Once you have all of your components collected, it’s time to start mixing. You’re going to be mixing together everything except the potassium ferricyanide, which is going to be your chemical catalyst that starts the glow.

Mix 40ml of water, 1.5ml of hydrogen peroxide and equal parts — about .04g — of luminal and sodium hydroxide. Mix well, until everything dissolves. This is your glow stick base.

When you’re ready to make things glow, add your potassium ferricyanide. The more you add, the longer your glow stick will hold its glow.

This isn’t the only combination of chemicals that can be used to make glow sticks, however. You can also use diethyl phthalate as your base, mixed with sodium acetate and a common glow stick chemical called TCPO, and hydrogen peroxide as your chemical catalyst. This type of glow stick does require fluorescent dye to give it color, though, so keep that in mind when you’re designing your glow stick.

Just make sure you’re taking the proper safety precautions while handling chemicals.

If playing with caustic chemicals isn’t your thing, you’re in luck — there are some alternatives to your do-it-yourself chemistry class.

Alternatives to Authentic Glow Sticks

The worst thing about glow sticks is the fact that they fade after a while, and that bright glow you so enjoy goes out. With a couple of ingredients, you can make a permanent, solar-powered glow stick that is infinitely reusable.

All you need is glow-in-the-dark powder, often sold under the name zinc sulfide, some epoxy resin and a tube. Mix together the zinc sulfide powder and the resin, inject it into your tube and let it harden.

That’s it.

Once it dries, you have a permanent glow stick that just takes some time in the sun to recharge.

You can also fill a tube with glow-in-the-dark paint to get a rechargeable glow effect without needing to hunt down glow in the dark powder.

Reusing What You’ve Got

Can you make glow sticks reusable or rechargeable?

While the chemical reaction inside a traditional glow stick is finite, it can be extended with the use of a common kitchen appliance — your freezer.

By placing your glow sticks in the freezer, you can slow down the chemical reaction, making the glow last longer. If you freeze them overnight, then crack and shake them again, you’ll see a renewed glow, though slightly dimmer than the original.

It is important to note that this only works if you put the glow stick in the freezer when it’s still glowing. If it’s already dimmed to the point you can barely see it, no freezer in the world can save it. At that point, the chemical reaction is all but exhausted.

And no matter what you might see on the internet, DO NOT microwave your glow sticks. It might make them glow brighter for a short period of time, but they could also potentially explode on you, and those are not the sort of chemicals you want to get into your eyes. Even if it doesn’t explode in your face, heating the glow sticks causes the chemical reaction to happen faster, reducing glow time. That’s not much fun.

 

If you’re up to a little kitchen chemistry, you can make your own glow sticks at home without too much trouble. Just make sure you use all the proper safety precautions, and whatever you do, don’t put them in the microwave.

Category: ChemistryHere's How...

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Article by: Megan Ray Nichols

Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance science writer and science enthusiast. Her favorite subjects include astronomy and the environment. She encourages discussions in these fields. Megan is also a regular contributor to Datafloq, The Energy Collective, and David Renke’s World of Space. When she isn’t writing, Megan loves watching movies, hiking and stargazing.

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