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The History Of Glow Sticks

multicoloured glow sticks on the history of glow sticks

We’ve all cracked a glow stick and waved it around at a party or a gig, but did you know that glow sticks weren’t originally invented for fun? Here are a few interesting nuggets about the history of glow sticks.

Who invented glow sticks?

Although glow sticks didn’t really hit mainstream culture until the 1980s, scientists first began investigating glow stick chemistry (or chemiluminescence) back in the 1960s.

Scientists were fascinated by bioluminescent light produced within nature by fireflies and other organisms. Research found that this natural ability to produce light without heat was made possible with a chemical compound called luciferin. Understanding the chemical components of luciferin enabled scientists to recreate this naturally occurring luminescence.

Edwin A. Chandross, a Brooklyn-born specialist in organic chemistry, is widely heralded as the original founding glow father. He happened across the chemical compound required to make glow sticks almost by accident when experimenting with luminol.

Whilst investigating luminol’s unusual quality of producing light rather than heat in chemical reactions, he discovered that peroxalate esters were vital to creating chemiluminescence. Over the course of just one day he carried-out experiments to establish exactly which compounds of chemicals would produce light most effectively. The winning combination was Hydrogen Peroxide coupled with oxalyl chloride and dye. This emitted a visible light, which glowed at just 0.1% of the strength of today’s glow sticks.

He didn’t realise it at the time, but Chandross had made a monumental discovery for chemical science. Any future experiments, patents and inventions around chemiluminescence were all based on Chandross’ initial discoveries.

When was the first glow stick made?

Although Chandross was the brains behind the whole operation, he did not patent the first glow stick.

Michael M. Rauhut of American Cyanamid, an industrial chemical manufacturer, developed Chandross’ findings to create chemical light products. His team at Stamford improved upon Chandross’ work to devise a new type of oxalate ester (Phenyl Oxalate) with increased glow power. They gave it the trademark, Cyalume.

Cyanamid eventually went on to sell this technology on to Omniglow, specialists in chemiluminescent products. Omniglow continued the research, using different combinations of dye to create chemiluminescence in various colours.

Various glow stick type devices were awarded US patents in the 1960s and 1970s, including:

Packaged Chemiluminescent Material invented by Bernard Dubrow and Eugene Daniel Guth in June, 1965

The Chemical Lighting Device invented by Clarence W. Gilliam, David Iba Sr, and Thomas N. Hall in October 1973

A Chemiluminescent Device invented by Herbert P. Richter and Ruth E. Tedrick in June 1974.

Chemiluminescent Signal Device invented by Vincent J. Esposito, Steven M. Little and John H. Lyons in January 1976. This is the first glow stick device to resemble glow sticks as we know them today. It had a glass ampoule inside a plastic tube filled with a second substance. When bent the glass ampoule released its contents and the tube was shaken to mix the two substances, initiating the chemical reaction that produces luminescence.

Chemical Light Device invented by Richard Taylor Van Zandt in 1977.

How do glow sticks work?

All of these glow stick type devices used the same initial principle first discovered by Edwin Chandross. That is, they all mix two chemical compounds to produce light.

Glowsticks are essentially just a chemical reaction in a tube.  Inside the plastic casing of a glow stick is a floating glass tube containing hydrogen peroxide. This glass tube is then surrounded by fluorescent dye. When you snap a glowstick you break the internal glass tube which allows the chemicals to mix. It is this mixing which causes the glow through the process of chemiluminescence

The images below show the components that make-up a modern glow stick: a plastic tube containing peroxide mixture and a glass ampoule containing flurophore. When the peroxide and flurophore are mixed together they produce a glow.

components of a glow stick

What were glow sticks used for originally?

Interestingly, one of the first patents for a glow-stick-type device was awarded to the US Navy in 1973. They quickly became an essential piece of military equipment with a vast array of uses, including emergency lights, target markers, landing zone markers and parachute markers.

Glow sticks don’t require batteries, they’re cheap to make and easy to dispose-of. They have a long shelf life, tolerate high pressures, are waterproof and weatherproof, and are visible from a mile off in the right conditions. Glow sticks are also non-flammable and non-sparking which makes them the only source of light that is safe for use immediately after a catastrophic event.

So whilst glow sticks have gained universal-renown for lighting-up festivals and parties around the world, they still retain an important function within the military and emergency services today.

When were glow sticks first used for partying?

Insane festival light stick moment at phish gig

The story goes that glow sticks first emerged on the gig-scene back in 1971, introduced by the son of a factory worker whose company was hired by American Cyanamid to assemble glow sticks. He and his friends hauled backpacks filled with glow sticks to a Grateful Dead concert at the Yale Ball in New Haven, Connecticut.

A few songs in, they started cracking open the glow sticks and handing them out to people in the crowd. Chaos ensued as amazed fans started throwing these never-before-seen glowing sticks around in the dark. It brought the whole gig to a standstill!

And the rest, as they say, is history. With the arrival of acid house and the rave scene in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, glow sticks took off. So that’s the history of glow sticks, and now we’re using them at clubs, parties and festivals all over the world!

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The Glowtopia team have spent a long time developing our range of premium UV products. As a result they have become extremely popular with regular customers.

This range of products really can improve a party! Here are some cool things to do with our UV product range…

-Host a white tee party!

Ask everyone to wear a white tee and then spend time decorating each other using our premium quality fabric paints. Decorated white tees also serve as a great souvenir from a brilliant night!

-Host a bag painting party!

Our UV fabric paints provide a high quality finish on a vast array of materials! Kids will have a fantastic time at a bag painting birthday party!

-UV cosmetic fun!

We sell premium quality UV lipsticks, hair gels and hair streaks! These are fun addition to any party. They are easy to apply and last for hours!

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The Halloween Countdown Is On!

We are now well on the way to GLOWTOPIA’s  favourite time of year… HALLOWEEN!

This is the ideal time to plan a celebration with friends and family to escape the end of the Summer blues before we the buzz of Christmas really kicks in!

Do you know the best way to make this Halloween awesome?   Glowsticks are a fun way of brightening up any Halloween party, kids and grown-ups are sure to love them so be sure to check out the wide range of products we have on offer!  Our products are excellently priced, of premium quality and are safe for children!

Further convincing required? Check out these cool ways to use glowsticks this Halloween…

Glowing pumpkins

(Glowsticks are a cheaper and safer alternative to tea-lights that will glow brighter for longer)

Outdoor décor

(Glowsticks are perfect the perfect spooky garden decoration! Hang them from trees, line paths, place them in windows… the possibilities are endless)

Glowstick Fancy Dress

Do you really want to stand out?! We have a wide range of glowing bracelets, necklaces, caps, bunny ears and glasses! These will be the perfect addition to any Halloween attire!

Glowstick Trick or Treat

Not a fan of handing out candy on Halloween? Do not fear…. Glowsticks are a great alternative! Or maybe you could set up a glowstick scavenger hunt in your garden?!

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The Nights Are Drawing In!

Did you know that yesterday was the official first day of autumn?! But it’s not all bad, there are lots of fun things to look forward to; bonfires, Halloween, fireworks, and starry nights (to name just a few)!

The autumn season is the ideal opportunity to have fun with family and friends. The Glowtopia team  have spent a long time working out how to make this autumn awesome! Stay tuned for fresh ideas on how to brighten up your celebrations over the coming weeks, we are sure your family and friends will love what we have to offer!

Fancy a sneak preview???

-Glow stick pumpkins!

-Glow stick trick or treating!

-Spooky glow jars!

And much, much more!

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Glow Wild For Wholesale Glow Sticks This Summer

wholesale glow sticks in lots of colours

Woohoo! Summer is here and that can only mean one thing, wholesale glow sticks! Wait, what? We’re sure your first thought wasn’t to buy wholesale glowsticks, in fact, you’re probably already ripping mint for the mojitos and rinsing the barbeque down. Well let us just stop you right there, because you’re missing a stick, excuse us, trick, well actually, you’re missing out on both!

As we mournfully nibble the last of our Easter eggs, we look forward to a bright and glorious, scorching hot summer (we never said we weren’t dreamers). A summer which even with rain, and wind, and muddy grass will be filled with a ton of outdoor activities, festivals and camping galore.

Buying Wholesale Glow Sticks Applies To You

If you’re in the business of:

  • Running a festival
  • Running outdoor summer events
  • Running childrens summer camps
  • Running summer fitness camps
  • Running summer charity runs
  • Running garden party events
  • Running camping shops
  • Running camping grounds

Or you are pretty much running or organising anything where lights could be useful, fun or necessary in the dark, then it is time for you to think about bulk buying glow sticks from Glowtopia.

Getting The Best Price To Make The Most Profit

Soon enough glow sticks are going to be in high demand, it happens every summer and we want you to make the most of our cheaper than cheap wholesale prices, so you can make the most money when you’re selling out of glow sticks left right and centre this summer. We aren’t selective about our discounts either, no tricks or cheats here, we offer wholesale discounts on ALL our products. So whether you buy ten pairs of glow stick glasses, or 1000 LED flashing bunny rabbit ears, you can feel assured you are getting the absolute best price on your bulk buy glow sticks.

Meeting Your Needs All Day Every Day

You’re going to be selling out of glow sticks, no need to worry about that. No need to worry about stocking back up either though as we stock huge quantities of products so that we can offer next day delivery to you. We would never want to see a world where somebody wanted a bit of light in their life and they couldn’t get it!

Making It Your Own

Don’t worry about branding and packaging being specific to our brand, most of the products we buy are generic and unbranded in their packaging making them ideal for resale and totally ready for you to make them your own.

Glowtopia Are Ready To Supply You With Wholesale Glow Sticks This Summer

Whatever the event you are running this summer, we’re ready to help you bring a lot of light to it with our awesome, super affordable wholesale glow sticks. We’re excited to help you and your customers absolutely glow for it this summer!

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How Glow Sticks Work: The Science behind glow sticks

Glow sticks have been a staple party accessory for decades now. No rave, festival or school disco is complete without adding a few light sticks into the mix. But have you ever thought about the science behind glow sticks? What makes glow sticks glow? What have they got to do with fireflies? And how come they’re the only source of light that’s safe to use in a catastrophe?

How is light made? Let me excite your atoms…

Light is made when an outside source of energy excites atoms and causes them to release bundles of energy called photons.


So, for example, when you switch a light bulb on, the electricity creates heat energy that causes the atoms to get all excited and speed-up. As they speed-up they collide with each other at a greater force, transferring energy to the atom’s electrons. The electrons are temporarily ‘excited’ to a higher energy level and as they return to their original level they release some of their energy in the form of light photons.

There are a variety of processes that can be used to create light, but the two you’re probably most familiar with in every-day-life are:

Incandescence – Light is emitted due to heat. This is how fire creates light and it’s also the way your average light bulb works.

Phosphorescence & Fluorescence – Light is emitted due to radiation energy. Its how TV screens and fluorescent light bulb create light.

Glow sticks create light in the same way – lots of excited atoms banging into each other, releasing energy in the form of light photons. But, instead of using heat or radiation, a chemical reaction is used to excite the atoms in a material. The process is called chemiluminescence.

What is chemiluminesence when it’s at home?

Chemiluminescence is one application of a natural phenomenon called luminescence. Basically, luminescence is the process of creating light without heat.

You can find it all over nature. Fireflies and glow worms use luminescence to attract mates and the Anglerfish (that big scary fish in Finding Nemo) uses it to attract prey.

Glow worms use bioluminescence to create a glow similar to how glow sticks glow using chemiluminescence
The European Glow Worm uses luminescence to attract mates

Chemiluminescence recreates this luminescence found in nature by mixing multiple chemical compounds to create a chemical reaction. When the compounds mix, the atoms within them rearrange to form new compounds. The energy created by this chemical reaction results in light.

So how do glow sticks work?

In a nutshell, glow sticks give off light when two chemicals mix together. The glow stick itself is just a housing for the two chemical solutions used to create the reaction.

Most glow sticks are made-up of two separate compartments. A small, brittle inner container sits inside an outer flexible plastic container. Each of these containers holds a chemical compound.

When you bend the glow stick, the brittle inner container snaps and releases its contents to mix with the chemicals in the outer container. That’s when your atoms get all excited and start releasing energy in the form of light.

How do glow sticks work
The small glass vial contains a diphenyl oxalate solution and a fluorescent dye. This is housed within the plastic casing which also holds a hydrogen peroxide solution. When the glass vial is snapped, the two solutions mix. The resulting chemical reaction produces a glow. Please note, these chemicals can irritate the skin and the glass vials produce sharp shards when snapped. We do not recommend taking apart your glow stick.

And because glow sticks use a chemical reaction within a sealed tube to create light, it makes them the safest form of light to use following a major catastrophe. In environments where the heat required for incandescent light may be dangerous, glow sticks are your go-to-guys.

So if you’re in the process of stocking your underground bunker in preparation for an apocalypse, we’ve got all the glow sticks you’ll need.

Here’s the science-y bit…

Typically, glow sticks use a chemical reaction between a hydrogen peroxide solution, and a solution that contains diphenyl oxalate and a fluorescent dye. It works like this:

  1. The diphenyl oxalate is oxidised by the hydrogen peroxide. This results in an unstable compound (1,2-dioxtanedione).
  2. The unstable compound decomposes into carbon dioxide, releasing energy into the fluorescent dye as it does so.
  3. The energy released causes the electrons in the dye atoms to jump to a higher level. As they return to normal levels the electrons release their energy in the form of light.

The chemical reaction is irreversible, which is why glow sticks only have one use. But you can slow down or speed-up the reaction using heat.

Warm-up a glow stick under your armpit, and the extra heat energy accelerates the reaction. It (the glow stick, not your armpit) will glow brighter, for a shorter amount of time. Stick your glow stick in the freezer and you’ll slow down the reaction. The light will dim, but the glow will last for much longer.

However quickly or slowly it happens, eventually all of the diphenyl oxalate and hydrogen peroxide are used up by the chemical reaction. When one of these compounds runs out, the glow stick will stop glowing.

What makes glow sticks glow with different colours?

A range of different chemical compounds can be used to create chemiluminescence. Depending on the chemicals used, as well as which dyes are used, the glow stick will emit different coloured light.

If you want to find out more, check out this pretty graphic by It shows the different chemical compounds used to create various colours of glow sticks.

what makes glow sticks glow different colours

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Welcome to!

Welcome to!

Glow Sticks Our website is now online and open to the public so you can buy glow sticks from the online store now. We are still in the early stages of getting the site up and running; if you have any feedback or suggestions on what you would like to see here then we will be happy to hear what you have to say. The first products have been added to the site, so we are now taking orders. Don’t forget to keep coming back, we will be adding to the catalogue frequently, with some glow accessories being sold for a limited time only.

So, if you are looking to buy glowsticks or any other glow accessories such as glowstick necklaces or glowstick bunny ears, you can find them now on the shop page!


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