Introduction: Make a Glow Stick Reaction Using Real Chemicals

Here I show you how to make a glow stick reaction with real chemicals.

Yes this is a repost, i made a huge mistake on the last one

The glowstick reaction is made using a diphenyl oxalate derivative known as bis(2,4,6-trichlorophenyl)oxalate or TCPO. Additional ingredients include ethyl acetate as a solvent, sodium acetate as a base, 9,10-bis(phenylethynyl)anthracene to give it the green color, and hydrogen peroxide to react with the TCPO and create light.

The exact proportions are:

15mL of ethyl acetate
3mg of 9,10-bis(phenyethynyl) anthracene
1g of sodium acetate
800mg of TCPO
3mL of hydrogen peroxide added last to initiate the reaction.

The exact same process is used in glow sticks. This is NOT mountain dew. Mountain dew cannot glow like this, it does not have the crucial TCPO chemical or any chemical like that.

The reaction will glow in the dark for several minutes if you use ethyl acetate as the solvent. It will glow for several hours if you use diethyl phthalate as the solvent.

WARNING: Trolls , idiots or morons might post comments claiming you can make glow sticks by other compositions. Ignore them all. NONE of them (not even luminol) last as long as the peroxylate category of chemiluminescent reactions. And some 'alternative' (read FAKE) compositions are dangerous, toxic or explosive, do no attempt *ANY* of them. (except luminol)

Sorry i have to spam like that. But some people are so desperate to make their own glow stick that they'll try anything and trolls prey upon this. A couple of years ago a kid I knew heard that you could make a glow stick from alcohol and pool chlorine.... He's permanently blind now. Sure he's stupid but no one told him that mixing those two was dangerous and that he was lied to.


HalH1 (author)2016-11-04

Don't know how many Q&A I have read on this board today. My my own perspective is just buy the cheap glo-sticks at Walmart. I know a lot of young, or new to this subject are jacked up, and are almost ready to start the manufacturing process. it is advisable you entertain a few questions. Do you really want to handle chemicals that WILL kill you, in your home, or will pollute the air in close proximity to your family? If you think yes, well then read on Bubba.

WhoIsJohnGalt (author)2009-06-01

When the glow eventually fades is it gone for good or can the solution be charged by exposing it to light?

HalH1 (author)WhoIsJohnGalt2016-11-04

I don't see any of the other reply's for these questions. Are they hidden for a reason, "Here I am being nice", or do you have to join DIY to see them?

NurdRage (author)WhoIsJohnGalt2009-06-01

its just like a regular glow stick. so when its dead its gone

abiogennesis (author)2016-10-24

question: what is the level of toxicity here? should be in open or closed space? is a foom hood better idea to make it?

daivom joshi (author)2016-08-04

Dear nurdrage,
can we make a glow stick which emmitts infrared light using different dyes???
such as using
dihexyloxyviolanthrone or 16,17-butyloxyviolanthrone or 1-N,N-dibutylaminoanthracene or 6-methylacridinium iodide.

MarthaM15 (author)2015-11-03

Sorry, but I keep getting questions! Are you using glass or plastic (or other) in the video?

MarthaM15 (author)2015-11-02

About how much would it cost me to make this? Are there any applications to the real world other than glow sticks?

michiel.vandenberg.16 (author)2015-01-27

do commercial glowsticks also use ethyl acetate as solvent? i cant find it anywere on the internet.

pk1194 (author)2015-01-26

How long will this reaction work? Only once or even if you shake it, it start again?

Colonel88 (author)2009-12-28

Is this toxic? Is it safe to say, splatter your clothes for an hourly night glow? Safe to touch? Thanks.

ClockJ (author)Colonel882014-11-25

Sorry for being four years late, but TCPO is a carcinogen (it can cause cancer) and generally touching it should be avoided.

ВадимБ (author)2014-08-02

How to calculate theoretically the glow time? What is the reaction rate constant TCPO and H2O2? Help please. My email

alexpopo (author)2013-01-05

Can CPPO be plugged straight into this formula instead of TCPO and have the same proportions? If not, how would the proportions change? By the way, I'm conducting an experiment varying the organic solvent (ethyl acetate, methyl acetate, butyl acetate, isopropyl acetate), and I am using the same proportion as shown in your video, "Make Glow Sticks - The Science". Help as soon as possible is appreciated.

lsanchez19 (author)2012-11-29

f i add more hydrogen peroxide to the rest of the chemicals needed to make the glowsticks glow what would happen

DmitriyScott (author)2010-11-01

Hi! Tell me please, can I use anthracene to get the luminescence?

mossimo3 (author)2009-10-28

What is the point of using a voice changer for this?

Anyway, really nice reaction!

chewit (author)2009-10-26

omg this is amazing but its not what i`m looking for is there anyway the solution can be thickened to make it into a paint like liquid for clubbing or gigs

NurdRage (author)chewit2009-10-26

We're working on an instructable to do that.

It takes a different approach, we make a glow-in-the-dark powder and then mix it with a gel to make it paintable.

Its taking awhile to get done, eventually we will be ready to post it.

terminator_chem (author)2009-05-31

May 31, 2009. 7:48 PMterminator_chemsays: and dude i found another reaction to make a glow liquid can you verify if this procedure is copy pastin the requirements and procedure...i think if u can tell u will help a lot of ppl;-If you don't have luminol than you are in a big problem if you want to make glowsticks. I made a glowing liquid half year ago it was glowing with a red color, the recipe is here: 1. Mix a solution of: a. 40mL distilled water b. 0.8g hydroxide c. 25g K2CO3 d. 1g pyrogallol e. 10 mL standard 37% methanal ("formaldehyde") all in a beaker too large for overflow 2. Darken the room 3. Add 30 mL standard 30% hydrogen peroxide Notes : The red glow is due to the oxidation of pyrogallol and methanal in alkaline peroxide. Either on its own should work but it works better if you use both. Pyrogallol is highly toxic. And if you add the H2O2 too fast it will boil and a lot of formaldehyde will get in to the air what is not so good. This thing is glowing until you add H2O2 to the mix. If you add it fast than it will have a strong light, if you add slow, than it will have a weak light. //I know that tis is not an easy recipe, but is is cheaper and easier than the other ones. You won't make glowstick easier. sum1 posted this recepie....can u tell every1 on instructables if it is safe or not....cause he isnt even using luminol....!!!!!

"hydroxide" is not a chemical in and of itself. what is it's counter ion? sodium? potassium?

benzene-1,2,3-triol= pyrogallol

terminator_chem (author)2009-05-31

dude can u pls help me my question is on the other video si..........and i really need ur help......muchos gracias though!

and i called up a chemical supplier and asked for TCPO ...they said it will cost me around 150 it better and safe 2 make it?

senor i no u very busy man....but pls help me! i need d help...PLEASE!

mortifiedmonkey0 (author)2009-05-25

that is awesome (author)2009-04-24

Please answer as much as you can... I found a sight for chemicals to make this. Can you further explain a mixture difference between few min and hour long mixtures. You mentioned solvents making the difference right? but when it last minutes is it that much brighter? I plan to make this stuff to put in an air tight Polycarbonate tube... (escrima stick) for either demos (minutes but showier) or night practice (hours but only visibility). I would only want to make both kinds if the minutes one was a lot brighter. other wise I'd only make the hours one for both. I know temperature can change intensity with longevity but I don't wanna freeze and boil my stick every time I feel like slowing/dimming or speeding/brightning. Does ethyl acetate as the solvent make it really bright? And shorten as a trade off? or is it and diethyl phthalate the same brightness but ethyl acetate last longer (and thus better but probably more expensive)? And How else may I manipulate your formula to burn out the brightness stronger but shorter. Or make it last but be weaker? How does disolving with water effect making bulk filler but less brightness? How does dyes effect time? I think I saw some were that some dyes make just as huge a difference. like # 1-chloro-9,10-bis(phenylethynyl)anthracene supposidly burns in 30 min were # 2-chloro-9,10-bis(phenylethynyl)anthracene does it in 12 hours. I can't find the dye you listed "9,10-bis(phenyethynyl) anthracene" I only found "9,10-Bis(phenylethynyl)anthracene" at the store. How would this effect it differently? How do I make white? I seen somewere I think that you must use a dye or it won't work. What do I use instead of 9,10-bis(phenyethynyl) anthracene that may make white but may be at that store i found. And what time will it last. I guess these questions lead to this goal if that makes it easier. I would like to have a bright/quick formula and a dim/long formular. Of either white or blue on either one. Doesn't matter which color goes with which motabolism (or what ever would describe it best). And it doesn't matter if both are different colors or both are the same. As long as they are white or blue. (prefer white), and as long as they have different "motabolisms" Thanx.

Diethyl phthalate lasts longer and is brighter, it's also more expensive. Ethyl acetate was used in the video because we didn't want to use diethyl phthalate for a video that was only going to be 2 minutes. Time is controlled chemical type, solvent type, and chemical form. Large crystal TCPO is dimmer but glows longer than powder TCPO. diethylhexyl phthalate solvent combined with CPPO or "bis(2,4,5-trichloro-6-carbopentoxyphenyl) oxalate" will glow even brighter. These chemicals are destroyed by water, there should be no water in your reaction. We have no tried those high-speed dyes, primarily due to budget constraints. "9,10-bis(phenyethynyl) anthracene" and "9,10-Bis(phenylethynyl)anthracene" are the same. mix red green and blue dyes to achieve white. same time as the original

can you tell me better then the luck I had so far info wise (else where): what dyes are the fast ones and which are not as much so? And what colors each make? I know computer graphics a lot more then chemistry so I should of known that when it comes to light RG&B; combo makes white, oops. But since all colors have different potency chemically can you tell me which proportions are good for white (or would 1 mg of each do)? Or a white that looks slightly more blue like the diff between lightbulb white and LED white.

Wikipedia has many references to dyes. Find a particular dye you want and search for its fluorescence emission spectrum on the internet, many spectrum can be found this way. The intensity of each dye depends on the solvent. You can search the scientific literature for appropriate quantum yields for all the reactions. Remember that diminishing returns applies and some dyes will not yield more light even if you increase their concentration. Using the quantum yields you can calculate the appropriate concentrations to achieve the spectral distribution you want. Alternatively, you can buy all the dyes (i reccomend 1 gram quantities) and find the coefficients for the particular mixtures you have, then work them out yourself. This way is a lot more fun.

I saw the wiki references before I first asked about dyes. But it doesn't mention Blue ones speed/bright difference. Only green and red alternate speed/bright ones. I'll try experimenting with the single blue then. thanx

sounds good. thanx (author)2009-04-24

is Luminol the component that could stand in for this one (TCPO)? I heard it doesn't work as well. But it seems much cheaper... If so what proportion should I use and how much weaker would the same proportion make?

Luminol is an entirely different chemical and requires a completely different solvent and dye system. It cannot be substituted straight accross for TCPO.

I know you mentioned some were that this is by far a better formula even than that of luminol based combo. how much better? would it be easier and cheaper to go ahead with the other one I found?
# 2 liters of distilled water
# 50 milliliters of hydrogen peroxide
# .2 grams of luminol
# 4 grams of sodium carbonate
# .5 gram of ammonium carbonate
# .4 gram of copper sulfate pentahydrate
And if this would work what color would it be?

luminol glows for about 2 minutes. TCPO in diethyl phthalate glows for 2-10 hours

brighter too? (author)2009-04-24

It seems all the stuff is reasonable. But I guess I didn't believe how expensive TCPO is... 800mg looks like 100 bucks? is it the same thing? Bis(2,4,6-trichlorophenyl) Oxalate Oxalic Acid bis(2,4,6-Trichlorophenyl) Ester C14H4Cl6O4 F.W. 448.90 CAS: 1165-91-9 Have you made a video on how to make it yet? or know of a cheaper place?

Yes that's the stuff. Youre supplier charges that much because it's probably analytical/medical grade, the stuff used for biomedical testing and research. It can be made for around $10/g. We have not yet made the video on synthesis because of the expense.

Jake-off (author)2009-03-12


Moosterz (author)Jake-off2009-03-14

If only it had more of a blue-purple glow. :P It totally does. (author)2009-03-13

wow! thats so.... steampunk! Now i wish I worked at a lab, too! :P Cool idea for an instructable, but it would be better to have mentioned that the easiest way to get the chemicals (and get around investigative government officials) is to be IN the lab! :D

pledgeissex (author)2009-03-10

i was just about to ask where to get these because just starting with Ethyl Acetate it seems difficult. do schools/labs ever order FOR people who ask?

NurdRage (author)pledgeissex2009-03-10

usually no. They don't want any liability if you turn up dead because you thought dimethyl sulfoxide and dimethyl sulfate are the same thing.

pledgeissex (author)NurdRage2009-03-10

so this is a giant tease! a clever ruse! you sir are a jerk! jk

thematthatter (author)2009-03-10

Mountain dew is the best soda ever! Do you know how to get glow stick juice out of cloths?

NurdRage (author)thematthatter2009-03-10

yeah...but it also ruins the clothes. Usually an organic solvent can dissolve the dye. But that also dissolves the other dyes in your clothes. Not much real way to get it out and still have your clothes at the end.

ac1D (author)2009-03-10

Cool! This remind me of the fake video on youtube about a guy making glowing mountain dew. Can we get these chemical in canada?

NurdRage (author)ac1D2009-03-10

To be honest: I am in canada! But that being said, it's still rather difficult to get them because they're labeled "hazardous materials" (although in truth drain cleaner and gasoline is more hazardous...) so you have be a business to be able to order them. Im not certain of what legal paperwork needs to be done. I work at a scientific research building so i'm able to get these things as easy as ordering pizza. If you want to know: I ordered my chemicals from Alfa Aesar and also synthesized TCPO from other chemicals purchased from Alfa Aesar.

About This Instructable




Bio: 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 ... More »
Add instructable to: