How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 547

How do light sticks work? - AE
When you bend a plastic light stick, you break a small glass ampoule and allow two chemicals that are contained inside the stick to mix. One of these chemicals is a powerful oxidizing agent and the other is a chemical that when oxidized ("burned") is left in an electronically excited state. In other words, the chemical reaction between the molecules of the two chemicals creates a new molecule that has excess energy in it. The molecule releases this energy as a particle of light, a photon. Although I am not certain exactly which chemicals are used in a modern light stick, I believe that one is hydrogen peroxide (the oxidizer) and the other is luminol (the chemical that is oxidized). Upon oxidization, luminol emits a photon of blue or ultraviolet light. The green light that you see emerging from a typical light stick is actually a second photon that is emitted by a fluorescent dye contained in the light stick. This dye absorbs the blue or ultraviolet photon emitted by the luminol and then reemits a new photon with somewhat less energy and a green color.

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