Search for Science Fair Projects

1000 Science Fair Projects with Complete Instructions

Attribution: This is a cached copy of a third party project. Many of these sites are from 20 years ago and the majority are no longer running. We show only the first page of the project. We do not save all pages since copyright belongs to the third-party author.
Chewing MadSci Network: Edible/Inedible Experiments Archive


Area of Science: Chemistry
Meant for at least Grade K-3 (age 5-7).
This experiment is edible.
An adult need not be present.

Mechanical generation of light (by chewing)

Wintergreen Lifesaver candy (no other flavor will work).

To prevent accidental choking on the candy pieces, have a glass of water handy to drink.

How to do the experiment:
Triboluminescence is the mechanical generation of light. Certain chemical bonds will generate light energy when the molecules are torn apart by mechanical crushing. Wintergreen Lifesaver candies contain some of these bonds. No other flavor of lifesaver candy (such as peppermint) will work in this experiment.

1. Find a room with a mirror, that can be made very dark. Most bathrooms are good for this experiment.

2. Fill a glass of water to drink in case you choke on the candy.

3. Wait about 15-20 minutes in the darkened room until you can see your teeth in the mirror. Make certain your eyes have adjusted to the dark environment.

4. With your lips open so that you can see your teeth, chew a single lifesaver candy while watching your mouth in the mirror.

Each time a part of a Lifesaver is chrushed by your teeth you will see one or more flashes of white light in your mouth! Each piece of candy can produce many flashes of light as it is chewed and crushed.

You are generating light energy by triboluminescence because each time you chew the candy your teeth are tearing apart the chemical bonds that where formed when the liquid candy was molded into a solid lifesaver. Wintergreen contains molecules that exhibit triboluminescnece.

Automotive scientists are studing triboluminescent flashes as a way to sense automobile crashes so that the air bags can be inflated. Imagine having your life saved by a Lifesaver candy!

Useful References:

Further comments:

Experiment submitted on Wed Apr 2 18:58:45 1997 by:
Name: Adrian Popa
Institution: Hughes Research Labs
Position: Research Manager

MadSci Home | Information | Search | Archives | Mad Library | MAD Labs | MAD FAQs | Ask a question | Join Us!

MadSci Network
© 1997 MadSci Network. All rights reserved.