Is the Element Neon Found in Glow Sticks?


Ever since glow sticks began lighting up Halloween, they've gone on to illuminate parties, fairs and even scuba diving. The only curiosity lies in the glow's source, be it neon or something else.

Glow Stick Components

  • The glow stick's outer plastic portion houses the other ingredients. This tube contains a liquid surrounding a vial which stores a second liquid. The mixture of the two liquids produces the "neon" light.

Glow Activation

  • Activating glow sticks requires pressing or bending the outer tube until the vial snaps, releasing its liquid. Shaking the tube mixes the liquids, creating a glow lasting four to 12 hours, depending on outdoor temperatures. Warm temperatures produce a bright glow for a short time, whereas cold temps create a dim glow for longer periods.

Glow R-Activation

  • Freezing activated "live" glow sticks makes them go dormant, and removing them from the freezer warms them up to glow again. You can also reactivate "dead" glow sticks by boiling them for 30 seconds, which produces another 30 minutes of luminance.

Glow Chemistry

  • The illuminance of glow sticks doesn't come from neon gas, but a chemical reaction in the liquid ingredients. The liquids contain a combination of sodium carbonate, ammonium carbonate, copper sulfate pentahydrate and distilled water and hydrogen peroxide. Luminol triggers the glow and dyes produce the color.


  • Photo Credit neon glow image by Laura Lupton from
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