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How do Glow Sticks Work

Glow sticks, or light sticks, have a variety of purposes such as diving, military operations, emergency scenes, camping, concerts and amusement. They are basically a plastic tube with a glass vial inside that produces light without the use of batteries or electricity. They come in a variety of colors and can continue to produce light for a long period of time. They are a cheap and safe source of lighting for many activities and are popular with children and adults alike. How do glow sticks produce light? Read on to find out.

How Do Glow Sticks Work?
A glow stick glows due to a chemical reaction that takes place inside the plastic tube. Each glow stick consists of a plastic tube with a glass vial or tube contained inside. Within the plastic there is a solution called hydrogen peroxide. Inside the glass vial there is a different solution called diphenyl oxalate and a florescent dye. When these two chemicals interact with one another and mix they cause the glow stick to produce light. The dye makes the light produces a particular color. To activate a glow stick and cause it to produce light, the glass vial inside the plastic tubing needs to be broken to allow the two chemicals to mix. This is done by bending the flexible plastic outer casing. Once the vial is broken the glow stick just needs to be shaken and the two chemicals will mix and produce light. The cooler the temperature is the longer the glow stick will continue to glow. Keeping non-activated glow sticks in the freezer can make them last longer once they are activated.

The chemicals inside the glow stick should not be applied to the skin or ingested. The hydrogen peroxide and the by-product of phenol can cause skin irritation or swelling. In extreme cases it can also cause nausea and vomiting.

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