How does glow in the dark work? Glowing objects are truly fascinating. Glow in the dark products are one of the most popular verticals on Amazon and the main topic of this site.
Glow in the dark stuff is in high demand for all sorts of parties. Sometimes you will also see these glow products called fluorescent, luminous or phosphorescent products. We have a published a full thesaurus packed with glow in the dark synonyms. There’s so much glow in the dark stuff: glow in the dark craft paint, glow in the dark face and body paint, shoe laces, shoes, footballs, basketballs… even glow in the dark condoms, fishnets and lingerie.
Most people wonder how it’s possible for random objects, toys or clothes to produce an awesome glowing effect. We’ll try in this article to explain this rather magical process in a few simple words. It all boils down to the presence in these objects of a phosphorescent pigment.
Some objects can be charged with light to glow in the dark
Objects containing a substance called phosphor (phosphorescent objects) are capable of radiating light after being charged, ideally with UV / black light but also, in some cases, with natural sunlight or traditional indoor lamps, even a flashlight.
When a material contains phosphors it’s called a luminescent material.
Depending on the color of the phosphor pigment, these glow in the dark objects will emit green light, blue light, red light, orange light or other colors.
To achieve an optimal effect, it’s better to expose phosphorescent surfaces to a light source for several hours in order to get a great fluorescent light after dark.
You can transform almost any surface into a fluorescent area by using glow in the dark paint. That’s the way you can make glow in the dark toys which deliver a mesmerizing glowing effect.
What is phosphorence?
There are a lot of materials which can act as a phosphor, i.e. having the capacity to store light to radiate energy and glow in the dark. Let’s just name two of them: zinc sulfide and strontium aluminate.
Strontium aluminate performs better than zinc sulfide. It has a much longer light persistence after being energized.
Some phosphors, due to their crystal structure, can be energized by natural light. Other ones require Ultraviolet light / black light (the type of light used in glow in the dark minigolfs and bowlings). That’s the reason why people can be disappointed by some glow in the dark products, trying to charge them with traditional lamps when they require a UV source to perform at their best capacity.
The atoms inside phosphors get excited by the external source of energy. And they emit light in their excited state while returning to their original energy level. When they’re back at their idle state, they stop glowing. The more you excite the atoms of phosphors, the longer the glowing period will last for your glow in the dark objects.
How does a fluorescent lamp work?
Fluorescent lamps emit visible light, just as any other type of lamp, albeit with a particular glow. But the light we see is the result of a reaction. Behind the scenes a UV light excites luminescent phosphors which, in the end, emit the visible light.
Glow in the dark luminescent materials emit light immediately when energized by UV lights whereas simple phosphorescent materials emit light much more slowly.
Washing powder manufacturers add fluorescent materials to their products, which enhances the normal glowing of your clothes just after they’ve been washed.
How do high end watches always glow?
Luminescent phosphors can be permanently excited by a tiny radioactive source. We call this process radioluminescence.
High end watches used to feature radium, a radioactive element which has been replaced by tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen or a synthetic version of promethium, a luminescent material far less dangerous than radium.
Are phosphorescence and bioluminescence two different processes?
Yes, do not confuse phosphorescence, the property of objects containing phosphors which are charged by external sources to emit light photons, with bioluminescence – also called the chemiluminescent process – the natural property of some living beings (plants (photoluminescence), mushrooms, fish,…) which can produce their own light via a chemical reaction, which is called chemiluminescence.
This is totally different. It tooks a long time for science to understand the core principles of light emission via chemical luminescence.
How do glowsticks work?
Glowsticks are glowing toys which emit their own light, they do not need external energy to glow.. You have to crack glow sticks before using them, which mixes two chemicals, a base catalyst and a dye, two chemical substances which produce a glowing lure when blended.
The intensity of the glow usually depends on two factors: the concentration of phosphorescent particles in the glowing material and the intensity of the exposition of the luminescent object to a strong source of light (sunlight or artificial light). The longer you’ll expose phosphorescent material to light the stronger it will glow after dark.
As explained in the previous answer, it depends on how long you’ve exposed the phosphorescent material to a source of light which energizes the phosphors. The best glow in the dark products can glow for a whole night if exposed to sunlight during day time.
You can charge glow in the dark objects with any source of light. This can be sunlight or a source of artificial light, such as a flash light. Bear in mind that you’ll achieve an optimal glowing effect with UV / black light.
It simply means than an object (or plant, or animal) emits light after dark. It can be self-produced light (bioluminescence, caused by a chemical process) or light emissions following an exposition to sunlight or artificial light (phosphorescence).
The glowing effect produced by luminescent objects fades away after a few hours when they go from their excitation state, caused by prior exposition to a source of light, to their idle state.