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Mary Bellis

Glow in the Dark Science

By April 30, 2014

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photoluminescencePhoto-luminescence by definition is the emission of light from a molecule or atom that has absorbed electromagnetic energy: examples include fluorescence and phosphorescence materials. Photo-luminescence spectroscopy is a contact-less, nondestructive method of probing the electronic structure of materials.

The photo to the right depicts photo-luminescence materials spread on 7-inch wide roll. This is from a patent pending technology developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory that uses small organic molecule materials to create organic light-emitting devices (OLEDs) and other electronics. Proof-of-principle of the technique has been demonstrated by successfully coating the small molecule Alq3 on a PET substrate (photo). The method may also be used to produce "patterned" electronic thin-film devices in which an active small molecule organic material is selectively deposited on a substrate to form a pattern appropriate for the operation of the device. Photo: Department of Energy

History of Glow in the Dark
Glow in the dark powders, glow sticks, ropes etc. are all fun examples of photo-luminescence. Phosphorus and its various compounds are phosphorescents, or materials that glow in the dark. Before knowing what phosphorus was, its glowing properties have been reported in ancient writings. The oldest known written observations were made in China, dating back to 1000 B.C. regarding fireflies and glow-worms. In 1602, Vincenzo Casciarolo, discovered the phosphorus glowing "Bolognian Stones" just outside of Bologna that started the first scientific study of photo-luminescence.

Phosphorus was first isolated in 1669 by German physician Hennig Brand. Brand was an alchemist who was attempting to change metals into gold when he isolated phosphorus. All glow in the dark products contain phosphor. To make a glow in the dark toy, toy makers use a phosphor that is energized by normal light and that has a very long persistence - the length of time it glows. Zinc Sulfide and Strontium Aluminate are the two most commonly used phosphors.

Scientists in Taiwan say they have bred three pigs that "glow in the dark".

August 2, 2007 at 1:23 pm
(1) alice c dyson says:

i share all the information with
my senior citizen computer club
at Lakeview towers in baltimore, Md.
Thanks, Alice D

August 3, 2007 at 3:49 pm
(2) inventors says:

Alice – thanks for the kind words

September 18, 2008 at 4:39 pm
(3) brantlee says:

this is so cool i did this and it works.

May 29, 2010 at 7:28 pm
(4) Michael Gury says:

Mickey Rooney starred in a real turkey called (as I recall) “The Atomic Kid” during which he was irradiated and glowed throughout the movie. It was made in the ’40′s or early ’50′s, when we all were captivated by all things nuclear. Now, in the last few years, a book was written about a kid, similarly smitten, who bought a bunch of clocks and watches, scraped off all the glowing stuff, compressed it, and made a small nuclear reactor in the shed behind his house. This kid was a real, if somewhat disturbed, genius in that this little reactor created so much radiation that it was picked up by Geiger counters miles away. As I recall, this was in the UK, and the police had no idea how to deal with a runaway nuclear reactor, but if this kid is still alive, he is his own nightlight.

June 23, 2010 at 10:53 am
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June 26, 2010 at 4:22 pm
(6) danny says:

this should be used to make artificial light so its more Earth friendly instead of using up billions of watt hours in lighting up cities.

February 3, 2013 at 10:33 am
(7) David Stewart says:

Since strontium aluminate is the only biological and chemical inert substance, I would advise to use only products which contain this material. More on long persistence phosphors here.

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