How To: Make Smash-Glow Crystals (Triboluminescent Crystals)

Make Smash-Glow Crystals (Triboluminescent Crystals)

Smash glow? What the heck is that? That's exactly what you'll find out… watch this science video tutorial from Nurd Rage on how to make smash-glow crystals (triboluminescent crystals) with Dr. Lithium.

Triboluminescence is the phenomena where light is generated when something is rubbed or fractured. The exact mechanism by which triboluminescence works is still under investigation, but the best theories so far propose that the breaking of the structure causes charge separation that release energy upon recombination. This energy is picked up by nearby atoms, in this case europium, and released as light according to their ionization or fluorescence spectra.

Many substances exhibit triboluminescence including sugar and tape. But Europium Tetrakis (Dibenzoylmethide)Triethylammonium is one of the strongest available and its glow can easily be captured by a camera.

It's made by mixing 100mL of Ethanol, 2.93g of dibenzoylmethane, 1.4g of europium nitrate pentahydrate and 1.9mL of triethylamine. The mixture is heated until everything dissolves and then allowed to cool slowly to obtain crystals that are filtered off and washed with ethanol. After thorough drying they are ready for use.

A frequently asked question is if this stuff is hot when it is used. The answer is no, the crystals do not undergo a chemical transformation and thus they do not release or consume heat, but remain at constant temperature. There may be some small heating due to friction when they are broken, but that is not from the crystals or a special property of triboluminescence.

Brought to you by one of WonderHowTo's favorite scientists, NurdRage.

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