HowTo: Hack Light

Hack Light

PopSci's Gray Matter explains how to "hack light", a simple project that calls for glow sticks, diagonal cutters and Drano. Here's the science behind it:

"When you bend a light stick, you break open a glass ampule inside. Diphenyl oxalate in the ampule reacts with hydrogen peroxide in the surrounding solution to form peroxyacid ester, a high-energy chemical compound. The color depends on a phosphorescent dye: When a high-energy ester molecule meets a dye molecule, the ester molecule decomposes and transfers its energy to the dye molecule, which emits that energy as a photon of visible light.

Despite the fact that glowing chemicals are usually associated with danger, light sticks are actually fairly benign. If you follow some precautions, you can open them up and experiment. For example, if you lower the pH of the solution by adding sodium hydroxide, also known as crystal Drano, ester molecules form at a faster rate, making the solution brighter (and using it up faster)."

HowTo: Hack Light

How to do it? You'll have to use some DIY Go Get'em, as these are minimal instructions, at best. But, you can figure it out... this is simple stuff:

  • First, use diagonal cutters to carefully cut the tops off several dozen light sticks. Pour the outer contents into plastic bottles for later use. (The color of the solution inside is often quite different from the color of light it will emit when chemically activated.)
  • Next, add drain cleaner. For more info, visit Gray Matter.

HowTo: Hack Light


  • Avoid getting light-stick chemicals on your skin, and be very careful to keep them out of your eyes. The glass ampule inside could cut you just like any other broken glass, so wear gloves.

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