What is the Chemistry Involved in Glow sticks

by Jonathan Cogley

Glow sticks are small plastic tubes with a glass vial inside them. They glow when the glow stick is bent and both the chemicals present in them mix together. They do not use any sources of electricity but still glow brightly like all electric lights and lamps. By observing a glow stick one can easily say that some chemical reaction is taking place which makes the glow stick glow. But only few of us know what exactly happens during the chemical reaction.

Let us have a look on the chemistry involved in glow sticks.

The three major components which constitute the chemical reaction in the glow stick are the

  • Diphenyl Oxalate Ester
  • Hydrogen peroxide and
  • Florescent dye.

The first two components are used to release the energy and the dye is used to accept that energy and to convert it in to light.

When the Diphhenyl oxalate Ester is combined with hydrogen peroxide, it oxidizes the Ester giving rise to two molecules of phenol and one molecule of peroxy acid ester. That peroxy acid ester immediately decomposes in to Carbon dioxide. This decomposition reaction releases the energy that excite the dye. The energy excites the electrons in the florescent dye. This causes the electrons to jump to a higher energy level and then fall back which releases light.

The chemical reaction which takes place in glow sticks releases energy in the form of light. The light produced by this chemical reaction is called as chemiluminescence.

This is the chemical reaction that takes place inside a glow stick and makes it glow.

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