Light Sticks Information

Selecting light glow sticksLight sticks, more commonly called glow sticks, are self-contained light sources that produce light via chemiluminescence. They are employed in industrial, emergency, and military fields as an auxiliary means of light, such as when electric lighting is unavailable or unpractical. They are also common for nighttime and low-light recreational purposes, such diving, camping, and trick-or-treating, amongst many others.




The instruments comprise a translucent plastic tube that contains an inner glass vial with isolated chemicals. The plastic stick is bent to break the vial, mix the chemicals, and activate the light stick. The mixing starts a reaction that causes the tube to emit light. A fluorescent dye is included to determine light color.


Glow stick production involves multiple methods. Commercial products incorporate an isolated solution of hydrogen peroxide and a solution made up of phenyl oxalate ester. A commercial dye is present in the unit as well. The reaction between the chemicals generates sufficient energy to excite electrons occurring in the fluorescent dye. This results in the electrons jumping to a higher energy level before falling back and releasing light.


The chemical reaction occurs when the hydrogen peroxide induces oxidation in the phenyl oxalate ester. This creates phenol and peroxyacid ester in an unstable form. Decomposition of the unstable ester results in phenol and cyclic peroxy compound that decomposes to produce carbon dioxide. The decomposition expends the energy for exciting the dye and releasing light that makes the stick glow. Hydrogen peroxide and phenyl oxalate are consumed in the reaction and once one of the chemicals is exhausted chemiluminescence ceases.


Chemiluminescence is impacted by temperature changes. In a cold environment the chemical process slows down and generates a low-intensity glow. As a result, lower temperatures extend the life of the product. On the other hand a device burns brighter, for a shorter period, if subjected to heat.


These items have a range of benefits over other forms of secondary lighting, including:


  • Waterproof, windproof, and buoyant
  • Non-toxic
  • Battery-less
  • Inexpensive and disposable
  • 360° illumination
  • Visibility in dense smoke or mist
  • Non-incendiary (does not produce heat, flame or sparks) 



Light sticks come in several styles and types designed for distinct applications, including:


Standard light sticks offert a selection of color, size, intensity, and duration options for many recreational and emergency uses.


Infrared glow sticks are employed by the military for marking targets. They are visible when using the infrared equipment.


Industrial glow sticks feature marking and signaling capabilities. Select models offer hooks or clips for easy attachment.


Flexible devices, such as bands, can be attached to substrates of varying topography. They assist in identifying people, objects, and more, such as locations, trails, hazards, and perimeters.


Ultra-glow tools supply intense light for a very short duration. A standard unit with a 12-hour capacity is instead configured to burn with extreme intensity for 5 minutes. This category is suitable for serving as signal flares for helicopters or rescue situations.


Mini glow sticks measure one to two inches in length. They are designed to deliver modest amounts of illumination in special circumstances, such as reading a map while minimizing conspicuousness.




Light sticks cover a diverse scope of applications, including:


  • Outdoor recreation, e.g. camping, scuba diving, spelunking, hiking
  • Signaling and indicating 
  • Emergency situations
    • On-scene for police, EMS, and fire personnel
    • Search and rescue operations
    • Post-disaster, e.g. earthquake, tornado
  • Glowsticking (dancing performed with light sticks) and parties
  • Decorations
  • Jewelry
  • Hospitality

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