Make Glow Sticks - the Science

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Introduction: Make Glow Sticks - the Science

About: NurdRage is a dedicate group of science nerds trying to further amateur science with direct how-to instructions in video format. We saw what was already online and we thought "we could do better".....

We show how to make glow sticks and go through all the chemicals needed as well as how to make different colors. We also talk about the chemistry and scientifically research a proposed mechanism.

To make the glow stick mix together the following:

10mL Diethyl Phthalate (solvent)
3mg of fluorescent dye (see below)
50mg TCPO (see below)
100mg sodium acetate
3mL 30% hydrogen peroxide (add last to start reaction)

The fluorescent dye can be 9,10-bis(phenylethynyl)anthracene for green, Rubrene for yellow, 9,10-diphenylanthracene for blue, and rhodamine B for red.

TCPO is expensive to buy but can be made for much cheaper by following the directions in our previous video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViJknvEEEOA

The chemicals, including the ones to make TCPO were purchased from alfa aesar:

The Rhodamine B and Rubrene dyes were instead purchased from sigma Aldrich:

The dyes and TCPO are carcinogenic and gloves should be worn when handling them.

The TCPO and sodium acetate amounts can be varied considerably and still obtain good light. Smaller quantities tend to be dimmer and decay faster, while larger quantities last longer.

For those that want a kit that has all the chemicals, there is kickstarter for that: 
NOTE: I am not in anyway affiliated with the company. I cannot vouch for the effectiveness or quality of their product. 

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    79 Comments

    thanks for this experiment pecs use I need something for my science experiment and this is the fight thing for it! Thanks so much!!!!??????????????

    I request u nurdrage please make a glow stick which emmitts infrared or uv light using 16,17-dihexyloxyviolanthrone emits infrared at 725 nm. or
    16,17-butyloxyviolanthrone emits infrared. Or
    1-N,N-dibutylaminoanthracene emits infrared. Or
    6-methylacridinium iodide emits infrared.

    It's difficult to understand some of these comments/questions because so many people no longer use punctuation, correctly or otherwise. It's maddening because I have some of the same questions and don't want to be redundant in the postings.

    Can you make these in any other colours other than these four?? Please and thanks for any responses :)

    can u just make me one Im only 15 years old

    wait......... so um you can make glow sticks out of water well im a fourth grader and i really need help on my science project because it's on 2 MONTHS and i can't think of something thank you so much for giving me this great idea !!!

    wait......... so um you can make glow sticks out of water well im a fourth grader and i really need help on my science project because it's on 2 MONTHS and i can't think of something thank you so much for giving me this great idea !!!

    wait......... so um you can make glow sticks out of water well im a fourth grader and i really need help on my science project because it's on 2 MONTHS and i can't think of something thank you so much for giving me this great idea !!!

    wait......... so um you can make glow sticks out of water well im a fourth grader and i really need help on my science project because it's on 2 MONTHS and i can't think of something thank you so much for giving me this great idea !!!

    wait......... so um you can make glow sticks out of water well im a fourth grader and i really need help on my science project because it's on 2 MONTHS and i can't think of something thank you so much for giving me this great idea !!!

    Simple question , what dye is used for infrared glow sticks as used in the military markers. They are great illuminators for nightvision / IR camera gear

    How long do they usually last? I'm currently using UV fluorescent dye for a display at my house but can't seem to get white would it be possible to apply the same method you used to get white with the dyes? thanks for the instructable looking forward to making some

    1 reply

    For how long it last all depends on the quality of chemicals you use in it...

    As for getting a White Illumination I can't seem to find much info on it, but I do know that the white glow-sticks actually use a Blue or Purple dye to get the white color, almost like adding Bluing to Luandry to whiten clothes...

    If your asking NerdRage, no he lives in Canada...

    Hi Guys, Can I use Luminol instead of using TCPO??
    Thank You :))

    1 reply

    A Quote from NerdRage on a prior comment:

    "For something a bit cheaper and safer I recommend looking into luminol based chemiluminescent reactions. Luminol can be bought online relatively cheaply compared to TCPO. and you don't need unusual solvents and dyes to use it..."

    Dr NurdRage,
    Esteemed, colleague. Thank you for the great videos-- instructive and very interesting. Great voice, too. I have an odd question, and it has to do with a pending science project. Is there any chemical you might recommend to increase the viscosity of the glow stick solution? We are looking for a constancy something like maple syrup. Of course, taste is not a consideration, and no one will be eating this stuff. Also, is over the counter Hydrogen Peroxide of sufficient potency as a reagent? Thanks again. Science Rocks, Sincerely, CosmoZ