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How to Make Glow Sticks at Home

How to Make Glow Sticks at Home

Do you want to have fun in the dark with glow sticks? This ScienceStruck article provides you with the ingredients and the procedure to do so. We discuss two ways of making a glow stick, using luminol and TCPO.
Deepa Karandikar
Did You Know?
Originally, glow sticks were meant to be a military tool. The US Navy has many patents in this regard

A glow stick is a translucent plastic tube that contains chemicals that react with each other when the tube is bent, producing a radiant glow in the process. It works on the principle of chemiluminescence, which is the production of light due to a chemical combination. The light from a glow stick once emitted cannot be switched off; it lasts until the chemicals are completely used up. Once used, the glow stick cannot be used again as the chemicals get exhausted. It does not give out heat. During emergencies, usually green and yellow glow sticks are used to ask for help.
Initially they were used as emergency lights, target markers, landing zone markers, and parachute drop markers in the military. Later, they were used by other public services. Now they are even available in the civilian markets.
Easy Ways to Make a Homemade Glow Stick
Important Directions: While handling the chemicals, do not use your bare hands. You gloves to cover them. Avoid contact with skin and eyes. Put on protective glasses. Do not smell the chemicals as some of them (for e.g. TCPO) are carcinogenic.
Apparatus Required
  • Preferably 2 - 3 glass jars or ceramic bowls that can contain at least half a liter of liquid each
  • A glass rod for stirring
  • Funnels to pour the liquids
  • A measuring cylinder that can measure 25 milliliters, 50 milliliters, and 1,000 milliliters
  • Some test tubes or small vials with lids for making your glow sticks.

Method 1: Using Luminol

  • 25 milliliters of hydrogen peroxide, 3% solution
  • 0.1 grams of luminol
  • 0.2 grams of cupric sulfate
  • 2 grams of sodium carbonate
  • 1 liter of distilled water
  • 0.25 grams of ammonium carbonate
  1. In the first jar or bowl, mix 25 milliliters of hydrogen peroxide (3% solution) with half a liter of distilled water.
  2. Hold a funnel over your second jar or bowl. Now add 2 grams of sodium carbonate, 0.2 grams of cupric sulfate, 0.25 grams of ammonium carbonate, and finally add 0.1 grams of luminol through the funnel. Stir the mixture well with a glass stirrer.
  3. In a small test tube, pour equal quantities of mixtures from both the jars or bowls. Cover it with a lid and shake it up. The two mixtures will react and give out a glow.

Method 2: Using TCPO

  • 3 mg of fluorescent dye
  • 10 mL of Diethyl Phthalate
  • 50 mg of TCPO, i.e., bis(2,4,6-trichlorophenyl) oxalate
  • 100 mg of sodium acetate
  • 3 mL of 30% hydrogen peroxide.
You can use any of the following chemicals for the fluorescent dye. They appear different when in solid state.
  • 9,10-bis(phenylethynyl)anthracene for a fluorescent green color. It is orange in solid state.
  • Rhodamine B for fluorescent red color. It is green in solid state.
  • 9,10-diphenylanthracene for fluorescent blue color. It is white in solid state.
  • Rubrene for fluorescent yellow color. It is red in solid state.
  • You can mix the blue and yellow solutions for the white glow stick.
  1. Mix the fluorescent dye with diethyl phthalate (DEP). Here, DEP acts as a solvent.
  2. Next you have to combine TCPO with the dyed mixture. Alternatively, you can also use DNPO, i.e., Bis(2,4-dinitrophenyl) oxalate or CPPO, i.e., Bis-(2,4,5-trichloro-6-(pentyloxycarbonyl)phenyl) oxalate in this reaction.
  3. Now add sodium acetate to it. It helps to keep the mixture in the alkaline state. Alternatively, you can also use sodium bicarbonate or sodium salicylic.
  4. Finally, add the hydrogen peroxide to this mixture. It acts as an oxidizing agent and provides 'glow' to the mixture.

Remember that the temperature of the surroundings affects the time of glowing of the glow stick; cooler the temperature, the longer the glow lasts. However, the intensity of light emitted is more if the surroundings are warm.