Just a quick note: I was not able to capture photographs or videos of the reaction, so I am using images found on this interesting site. Lewis Kozlosky runs the site and has given me permission to use his photo. Thank you, Lewis!
Step 1: The Scoop on Triboluminescence
The word Triboluminescence comes from the Greek word tribein, which means to rub, and the Latin word lumen, which means light. Triboluminescence occurs whenever asymmetrical bonds in a crystal are scratched or rubbed. The light we see is the energy from the friction occurring on the crystal being absorbed by the electrons in the atoms, which is then put off as light. This is the same thing that happens when you see lightning, so triboluminescence is basically extremely small lightning. There are many ways to create triboluminescence, but we will focus on one of the easier and more productive and fun ways.
Triboluminescence was first reported in 1620 by Francis Bacon, who wrote: "It is well known that all sugar, whether candied or plain, if it be hard, will sparkle when broken or scraped in the dark." Sucrose, or sugar, is a crystal. By itself it is possible for triboluminescence to occur, but the sparks will be tiny and only slightly visible.
By adding a certain chemical, C8H8O3, which is 8 parts Carbon, 8 parts Hydrogen, and only 3 parts Oxygen. This chemical has a few names, such as methyl salicylate, but it is generally know by it's more common name, oil of wintergreen. The oil of wintergreen, when mixed with the sugar, will absorb the light put off by the sugar, which then is put off by the electrons as blue light. Blue is a highly visible color in our spectrum, which means that the light generated will be a lot brighter.
Though in the last paragraph I said that the flash was a lot brighter due to the oil of wintergreen, the flash was still too quick and small for me to capture on film or video. Another person who captured the flash had to use ISO 3200 film to capture it. Since I do not have that kind of technology, I was forced to use images off of the web. Another reason my camera might not be picking up the flash is because the light given off is a type my camera doesn't pick up. I like to see any pictures that y'all take.
Well, I'd say that's enough background. Let's get to the fun.