Instructables
video Make Glow Sticks - The Science
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.
Solion20 days ago

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

cjlopez2133 years ago
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

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...

me1me2me32 years ago
hey do you live in texas

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

Ari352 years ago
Hi Guys, Can I use Luminol instead of using TCPO??
Thank You :))

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..."

cosmoz1 year ago
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

Small amounts of unflavored Powdered Gelatin might work as a thickener agent... But always try a small batch first to make sure that some adverse side effect does not occur...

As for "Over the Counter Hydrogen Peroxide..." The stuff won't work... The kind of stuff you get via the First Aid and such is only 3% concentration, not the 30% needed... You could concentrate it by freezing it, but that is a somewhat tricky procedure as the freezing points Of Hydrogen Peroxide and water are so Close... A quick search on Google will tell you how to do this best...

I believe the Hydrogen Peroxide for Bleaching hair is closer to 6-10%% so you might be able to pick some of that up to use instead, and concentrate it...

Anyways, I know this might be an old post but I hope that I was at least a little help...

kaise-reyna7 months ago
i need help to buy all the material for my scienes project and i want to buy the TCPO and not make it some one help me plz ??
ikuto2 years ago
Is there more then 1 typ of TCPO?
Sir Deadless ikuto10 months ago
DNPO (bis(2,4-dinitrophenyl) oxalate) and CPPO (Bis-[2,4,5-trichloro-6-(pentyloxycarbonyl)phenyl]oxalate) can be used. Mountain Dew CANNOT be used.
cayuse1 year ago
on this wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TCPO it says that it is also called "Oxalic acid", which alfa aesar sells in a few different solutions for a lot less than TCPO, which is over $100/gram.
I do not have access to the equipment or supervision to attempt to make TCPO, and don't really care to deal with or attempt to acquire deadly chemicals.

Will any of these solutions work for this reaction, would you use it without the solvent? or is that solvent for the dye?

Thanks for your comments, and some very interesting chemistry.
NurdRage (author)  cayuse1 year ago
That wikipedia article is wrong. it's not also called oxalic acid. Oxalic acid cannot be used as a substitute.

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.
jamob1 year ago
woah deep voice lol very cool
jumper173 years ago
NurdRage- I showed this method to a group of friends (his father is some sort of chemist, and allowed me to use some materials) and they found it most amusing. I also used it to mark boundaries, the jail, and the flag location during a round of night capture the flag, as well as other sports that required a little fluorescent lighting. Again, thank you for making this instructable!
(PS has anyone told you that your voice sounds like the protagonist of "Sanatarium"? Well, it did to me)

Thanks again.
abellizzi3 years ago
NurdRage- I set up the equation in molecular formula. Where did the chlorine product come from. Since you add Hydrogen Peroxide, Dye, and Cyalume (or TCPO for you), the end product is trichlorophenol, dye, and Carbon dioxide...where does the Cl come from?


Thanks
NurdRage (author)  abellizzi3 years ago
TCPO and cyalume are not the same thing.
kingpwnzer3 years ago
Very nice, i enjoyed watching this im going to have to try this out later on, good instructable (:
Isurvival4 years ago
The best glowsticks i have ever seen! Great job!
Roxy 1434 years ago
This is awesome and worth trying !!!
GeekusN844 years ago
This is, by far, my favorite Instructable so far after several months of lurking. Good on ya! I also have a few questions: Is it possible to make non-toxic glow sticks, like the ones that can sometimes be found at the store? Is there even such a thing as a truly non-toxic glow stick? Can these chemicals be used in a common plastic container, such as a water bottle, or do they need a particular type of plastic for storage and use when glowing? Again, great video!
NurdRage (author)  GeekusN844 years ago
The ones in the store are not "non-toxic" as they claim. they do contain very similar chemicals to what i use here. They can get away with labeling it like that because not that dangerous in small doses. Like a single cigarette isn't going to kill you, but you shouldn't do it. I do understand why they do it though, if they labeled it as "slightly toxic" or "Do not drink" people will panic and think it's death in a bottle and won't buy it. Public perception of danger is weird like that. Unfortunately labeling it non-toxic makes people think they can drink it as party stunts and be perfectly fine, when they really shouldn't be doing that.
wolfcrow4 years ago
I was wondering... Could the chemicals in a highlighter be used instead of the dyes used in the clip?
I would imagine they can not. As mentioned in the video, the dyes must be fluorescent meaning that when energized they emit light. Although they are flourescent in color, the chemicals in the highlighters lack the ability to flouresce. (Just Guessing)
JTMON Schober4 years ago
Well, they sorta work but only fluoresce under UV black lights.
robm9994 years ago
Which dye would be used to produce infrared light?
NurdRage (author)  robm9994 years ago
To be honest i don't know. But it DOES exist. I saw a military glowstick once, looked completely normal, just a lump of plastic to the naked eye but when you looked at it through an infrared camera it lit up the entire room like broad daylight. The military uses it so soldiers can mark their position, or signal aircraft and other soldiers with infrared gear.
I think they just use a visible light emitting dye, and make the plastic casing out of plastic which filters visible wavelengths. Sometimes the dye mix is in the vial and the "activation solution" is the bulk of the fluid.
NurdRage (author)  deejman4 years ago
No it is an actual dye that emits in the infrared and not in visible I've seen the emission spectra plot and it clearly has its peak beyond the visible range with nothing in it.
crooki4 years ago
where can i buy these components???
NurdRage (author)  crooki4 years ago
Video description not working for ya?
cyprian9164 years ago
on the last one the one where you did not add dye you said it only creates heat. my question is does it then create infrared light?
No it does not. If you have a camera take a remote and put the light in the front of the camera and you should see a white light in the lens, that is infra red light. but as you can see his camera doesn't show the light from the one he did not add dye in it didn't glow.
That only works if you have a camera without an IR filter. Pretty much any camera sold nowadays has one, so it may actually put out IR light but we can't tell unless someone used a camera that knowingly had no IR filter.
Cell phone cameras commonly lack IR filters. They can be useful to test IR led's an such.
NurdRage (author)  alpha_zero9244 years ago
Whatever camera is used, it still wouldn't appear any different. The infrared spectrum is just the normal black body infrared spectrum, there is no additional or high energy infrared being produced. Therefore an infrared camera would not tell much difference compared to the unactivated reaction.
Schober4 years ago
Would you be able to use quinine as a dye? Because when Tonic Water is exposed to ultraviolet it glows a light blue. (Absorbing the high energy ultraviolet, and emitting a lower frequency blue) Although extracting the quinine from tonic water may be time consuming. I'm thinking you may be able to get it at a health food store due to the fact that it is somtimes used to treat leg cramps and malaria.
TheFawns4 years ago
hmm i got a question, if the florescent dye has to absorb the energy in order to produce light, is there any way, other than using these chemicals, to produce energy to light up the dye? for example, using electricity? or perhaps magnetic energy to light the dye?
NurdRage (author)  TheFawns4 years ago
Yes there is actually, i'm currently working on a video for that, but it maybe some time (months) before i can get it ready.
Stradigos4 years ago
Cool instructable. I feel like a Klingon is teaching me about glow sticks :D
Ekzile4 years ago
what happens when you add all the colors together? Could you possibly make a video about that?
mikeasaurus4 years ago
"A lot of people ask how long these last. And that depends on how much of the chemicals you use, and what temperature the solution is at"

can you elaborate, does the solution work better (last longer/brighter) if  activated when in a cooler or warmer temperature?

entertaining and informative, as always Nerd.
NurdRage (author)  mikeasaurus4 years ago
It's shorter but brighter at hot temperatures, but lasts longer and is dimmer at cold temperatures.
I think i once heard that like with comerical glow sticks if you use them part way and then need them the next day for a while to freeze them so you have some left the next day, just like you said slower reaction to last longer
GryphusOne4 years ago
[IT MUST BE RADIOACTIVE, (SYSTEM COPYING - SYSTEM COPYING COMPLETED) I WILL TRY IT FOR LATER.]
some one should make and enitre pool of this stuff and have a pool party at night and watch everyone glow!
I'm sure that wouldn't actually go down well, as the chemicals would probably hurt, a lot.
luvit4 years ago
i would drink them.. i mean, i would want to drink them.. so then i would.
Johnny X4 years ago
really cool :D
is that your real voice?
Booyaka34 years ago
I actually tried the Mountain Dew one a year ago, and I must say it was such a rip off. I completely failed infront of my parents.
smg4 years ago
excellent project but the chemicals are hard to find
nickodemus4 years ago

Smile, you're on Hackaday! :D
sockless4 years ago
Do you have any idea what importing the chemicals into New Zealand from the USA would be like? I have a feeling that the package most certainly would get at least opened, as customs probably doesn't take kindly to white powders being sent in the mail, but are there any export restrictions in the USA on any of this stuff?
steven1234 years ago
I was just wondering what if you add a higher concentration of the hydrogen peroxide or more what would happen?
mforseth4 years ago
whoa, that's so awesome!
OruKun4 years ago
How do you take care of the byproduct after the experimentation and is there any further use after the "glow" runs out?
NurdRage (author)  OruKun4 years ago
it's essentially toxic waste and must be disposed of. I just collect all my chemical wastes and call a disposal company to pick it up. Usually for this group of experiments i redistill off the solvent for reuse. The remaining solid wastes are MUCH smaller and saves on disposal costs.
junits154 years ago
COOL!!
rimar20004 years ago
Thanks for share, and additional thanks for the captions in video.
Very good video, I enjoyed watching that. 5*
what i die or burn my hand
helloze4 years ago
Well crafted and informative, tip of my hat for being an educator to the anonymous online masses.
johni24 years ago
Interesting and very nice.
depotdevoid4 years ago
That was EXCELLENT. Very well done and interesting, you certainly caught my attention!
NurdRage (author)  depotdevoid4 years ago
thanks!