Light up your life with sugar

Light up your life with sugar

Can you make sugar glow?

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Light up your life...

Dr Yan from BBC's Bang Goes the Theory explains how you can make sugar flash:

What you need:

  • White sugar cubes
  • Loose sugar
  • Flat bottomed glass
  • White plate

How to:

Do the experiment at night - it needs to be completely dark.

  1. Sprinkle some loose sugar onto the plate.
  2. Place a few sugar cubes on the plate.
  3. Practise crushing the sugar cubes with the glass. Be careful not to press so hard you break the glass!
  4. Now - do it with the lights off! You might need a few minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark.

Did you see any flashes of blue light? If it doesn't work, wait a little bit to make sure your eyes are properly adjusted to the darkness.

You can also try it with duct tape! Here's a video showing you what happens:

What's going on?

The flashes of blue lights are triboluminescence - this means "rubbing light". It's the light you see when you crush, tear or rub certain materials.

Scientists aren't sure exactly why triboluminescence occurs. They think it's probably to do with positive and negative charges separating in the sugar molecules. As opposite charges attract, it takes a huge amount of energy to separate them! Scientists think that when you crush the sugar, some of the energy you use to push down on the sugar causes the positive and negative charges in the sugar molecules to separate. The opposite charges rush back together again - because they attract each other - and the energy released is converted into visible light.