06 September 2006

Glow sticks last longer when stored in a Ziploc bag

Elana found a way to extend the life of a glow stick:

We recently broke out a pack of glow sticks as evening entertainment for the kids. Our friend, a chemistry professor, suggested we put a few in a Ziploc bag in the freezer to see what would happen (a science experiment for the younger ones).  The next day we took them out and hey presto, they were still glowing, unlike the ones left next to our beds all night.

Related: Glow stick bracelets as nightlights


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This works because the freezer's cold drastically reduces the reaction rate of the chemicals that generate light. The sticks usually don't start to glow again until they are thawed out, and I've found they are a shadow of their former glory. But sure beats wasting them entirely by throwing them away at bedtime.

Longer lasting sticks are possible by using a safe alpha-decay source such as tritium to activate a flourescing material like yttrium. These glow sticks are pricey but never stop glowing.

You can freeze them for up to a week and pull them out. The light is lower, but they still satisfy the younguns. Very effective in power outages, and cheaper than fire insurance if you typically use candles.

Heck, we took the others out of the freezer 2 months later and they still glowed (not brightly, but it was enough to notice).  We all thought it was quite cool and gave us a great reason to have a science lesson.

When I was a kid we'd always get the glow in the dark necklaces when we went to theme parks. We always put them on top of the super-cold air conditioner in the hotel room because it made them last through the next day. Freezing them makes a lot of sense to keep them glowing longer. But of course I'd have to sneak in their room and get them after they fell asleep! LOL!

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