Which Wintergreen Candy Sparks the Brightest in the Dark?

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Updated on Aug 31, 2012

Grade Level: 5th - 6th; Type: Physics

Objective:

In this experiment we will find out which brand of wintergreen candy produces the most sparks in the dark, a process called triboluminescence.

Research Questions:

What other examples of triboluminescence can you think of?

Triboluminescence describes the optimal phenomenon of when light is emitted by friction. In the case of wintergreen candies, the ingredient methyl salicylate reacts with when crushing to sugar and this creates a small electrical charge and this electrical charge is manifested in the form of light energy.

Materials:

  • Wintergreen candy- Lifesavers, Tic Tac, Altoids, Starlights, etc
  • Mirror
  • Dark Area

Experimental Procedure

  1. Gather all the candy you have and keep them at reach.
  2. Stand in front of a mirror and turn off all the lights.
  3. Take your first candy and crush it with your teeth. Take note of the candy you have consumed and the amount of sparks it produced.
  4. Repeat the above step for all the other candies.

Terms/Concepts: Triboluminescence; Glow-in-the-dark; Methyl Salicylate; Sugar; Electrical energy; light energy

References:

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