Triboluminescence - Definition, Discovery, Application, Experiment With Sugar Polo Candy
Triboluminescence - Definition, Discovery, Application, Experiment With Sugar Polo Candy

Triboluminescence - Definition, Discovery, Application, Experiment

Finally, something that you can experiment at home without fancy types of equipment. With a simple setup and without including high voltage you can easily generate sparks and have fun. Do you want to know how? The answer is Triboluminescence.

 

What Is Triboluminescence?

Triboluminescence is an effect that generates sparks by rubbing, scratching or fracturing certain materials. It is also known as Fractoluminescence. The effect can be seen in day to day activity like breaking of hard sugar mint or ripping off a band-aid.

It is an optical phenomenon in which light is generated through the breaking of chemical bonds in a material. The term comes from the Greek, tribology ("to rub") and the Latin lumen (light).

 

 

When Was It Discovered?

It was first observed by British scholar Francis Bacon in 1620. He stated in his work,’Novum Organum’ that "It is well known that all sugar, whether candied or plain if it is hard, will sparkle when broken or scraped in the dark." Later the phenomenon was also reported in 1663 by the scientist Robert Boyle.

 

Why Does Triboluminescence Occur?

Although it isn’t well understood by scientists, it is believed that triboluminescence is similar to lightning during storms, whereby energy is transferred when electrons are removed from atoms and interact with the surrounding matter.

 

 

The materials that are capable of generating triboluminescence are called as asymmetric material - this means that the positive and negative components are able to separate if the material is fractured. So when the structure breaks the nucleus(positive) stays on the material and electron(negative) is released into the air. These free electrons react with the molecules in the air. When current flows through the air as a medium, electrical discharge occurs. This results in a transfer of energy, often in the form of light, which is what we see. Unfortunately, most of the light emitted is out of the visible spectrum (ultraviolet, or UV). But, depending on the material, is can visible as violet, blue and sometimes even green light.

 

Can I Do It At Home?

You can easily observe this effect at home without taking too much trouble. This is the list of common household item:

 

  • Polo Candy / Wint-O-Green flavored Lifesavers (crush in a bag with pliers)

  • Sugar cubes or regular sugar (rub them together or use a mortar and pestle)

  • Pieces of quartz or rose quartz (rub them together or use a steel pin)

  • Some adhesive tapes (peeling off the roll or unpeeling a piece that is stuck together)

 

Then, you will need to make some arrangements accordingly.

 

A room dark enough to be able to observe the slightest spark without hitting yourself or any of your friend. (Wait there for 5 minutes allowing your eyes to adapt to the lighting condition.)

  • A hammer or a good set of teeth
  • A mirror or a Friend

First, you can take the candy and break it into small pieces if you wish. It just makes it easy to chew. Pop it in your mouth and chew. Watch as your mouth sparks and lights up!

 

 

Another method, be sure to handle the hammer safely. Keep the candy against a hard surface and crush it with the hammer. You will see the sparks as the candy is crushed.  
 

Uses And Applications

Not only is this phenomenon fun to look at, but it has some practical applications too. Scientists can utilize the light emitted from the fractured material to:

Since there is an abundance of materials that exhibit triboluminescence (all with a variety of characteristics), scientists can perform tests to find the most efficient material for their product.

Since there is an abundance of materials that exhibit triboluminescence (all with a variety of characteristics), scientists can perform tests to find the most efficient material for their product.

 

Tags:
Categories:
Share: