Electroluminescence?

EL Wire SpiralBy now, many of us have seen the new cool glowing wire known as EL Wire.

What does the EL stand for? Well Electroluminescence of course! So what exactly is Electroluminescence anyways?

Electroluminescence is the scientific term used when a material emits light when an electrical current is passed through it. Most common EL (Electroluminescent) devices are composed of either a powder or thin films. In the case of EL wire, a thin film is encased within the wire itself and when an electrical current passes through it, it begins to light up with a bright, cool glowing effect!

What a cool new invention!

Well, new is not exactly accurate. General Electric has patents dating back to the 1930s regarding Electroluminescent technologies and has been used as automotive instrument back-lighting for decades. Even your LCD Computer Monitor uses a Electroluminescent technology as the back-lighting is a powder phosphor-based panel that transmits light when a current is passed through it.

So, EL technologies have been around a while, your probably just starting to hear the term used more due to modern advancements in battery technologies and portable lighting devices are becoming more widespread. This allows the EL technology to be used in mobile lighting and novelty entertainment devices much more readily.

Check out the wikipedia article on Electroluminescence for more information!

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What is Glowsticking?

Glowsticking is a form of dance using glow sticks or LED light sticks for a performance similar to poi or firedancing. Glowsticking is a blanket  term describing two broad categories of glowsticking, stringed or non-stringed, otherwise described as ‘glowstringing’ and ‘freehand glowsticking’.

Here is a great video of  ‘glowstringing’ in action!

For some fun tutorials about how to get started with glowsticking, visit the professional community at Glowsticking.com. Additional information about the history & culture of glowsticking can be found on the wikipedia entry for glowsticking.

Things you should probably NOT do with Glow Sticks!

Glow Sticks are fun! No doubt about that, however there are a few things you should probably not do with glow sticks for obvious safety reasons. (but admittedly, they sure are fun to watch!!)

Here are a few video examples of what NOT to do with glow sticks:

Glow Sticks in a Toilet:

Glow Sticks in a Blender:

Glow Sticks in a Microwave:

Glow Sticks in a Freezer make them last longer?

You may have heard that putting an activated glow stick in the freezer or deep-freeze will stop the ‘glow’ effect and let you save the glow stick for when you need it next.

Can this be true?!?

Why, yes! It is true!

Since the glowing effect of a glow stick is a luminescent chemical reaction, temperature has a direct effect on glow chemical products. Cooling or freezing a chemical reaction causes the effects to slow, by heating it, this increases and speeds up the reaction. By placing an activated glow stick in the freezer, you are freezing the internal liquids and in turn slowing the chemical reaction. By completely freezing a glow stick, you are effectively shutting ‘off’ the glow effect. This will work for any chemi-luminescent product.

On the alternate side, having a glow stick in a hot environment will cause the chemical reaction to increase resulting in a much brighter glow effect for a reduced duration. So by re-heating a glow stick, you are reactivating the chemical reaction and starting the glow effect again. Keep in mind that this can reduce the overall duration of the glow stick slightly.

Important Safety Note: Do not place a frozen Glow Stick in the microwave to defrost it! Since a glow stick is a sealed plastic tube with internal chemical liquids, placing it in a microwave can cause it to melt or even explode. It is always recommended to under warm tap water to defrost it.

Fun Facts: What is a Glow Sticks Shelf Life?

The shelf life of glow sticks depends on two things – the way in which they are packaged and how the glow sticks are stored. The glow sticks should be stored in a cool, dry place. One should especially try to avoid storing them anywhere damp, as the glow sticks can actually absorb water molecules through their outer plastic casing, dramatically reducing their shelf life.

The second thing that will affect glow stick’s shelf life is how they are packaged. Bulk glow sticks that are not foil wrapped (for example 22” glow necklaces and the 8” multi use bracelets) will last 12 to 18 months if they are properly stored with no discernable affect on their brightness or duration. Foil wrapped glow sticks (for example 6” light sticks and 1.5” mini sticks) will last 2 to 4 years. Glow sticks will work past these expiration times but their brightness and duration will be greatly reduced. The color Green will store longer than the other colors and the color red has the shortest shelf life.


Fun Facts: How Do Glow Sticks Work?

Chemical Light is composed of two major chemical components: one, an activator that determines the duration and intensity of the light and the second an oxalate “flourescer”, which determines color. At this point, there are eleven known colors – red, blue, green, orange, aqua, yellow, purple, pink, white, yellow-green, and jade-green. The two active chemicals are separated until activation is needed. Separation is achieved by placing a specific amount of oxalate in a sealed onionskin glass ampule, which is inserted into the cavity of the plastic light stick, and then an exact amount of compatible activator is delivered into that cavity. A plastic cap then seals the tube. In order to activate a light stick, one simply bends the glow stick until the glass ampule inside breaks, thereby combining the two chemicals and generating a chemical reaction, which then creates the light of the glow stick!

Learn more here: