MadSci Network: Chemistry

Re: Non toxic glow in the dark material to add to bubble solution

Date: Wed Oct 18 14:51:12 2000
Posted By: Keith Allison, , dept: New Product, Technology & Development, Binney & Smith, Inc. (Crayola)
Area of science: Chemistry
ID: 971799919.Ch

Dear Chantal,
     Sounds like a great product idea!  Unfortunately, you are limited in 
what ingredients are available... There are only two types of glow in the 
dark materials: pigments (not soluble) or dyes.  There is only one dye I 
know of that happens to be the chemical inside fireflies: luminol.  The 
problem with this dye is that it relies on other ingredients such as bases 
and peroxide to work and would be difficult to classify as non-toxic.
     In the pigment category, zinc sulfide (doped with copper) is the 
classic material used which only glows for a short period of time after 
being exposed to light. There are two other types: organic pigments (glow 
for a very long period of time but are expensive and only available 
overseas) which cannot come in contact with water in order to glow, 
and "alkali earth aluminates" that are very similar to the zinc sulfides 
except they are a little more expensive and glow for longer periods of 
time.  In short, in order to make a non-toxic bubble solution, you must 
either purchase zinc sulfide (copper doped) or some of the alkali earth 
aluminates.  There are numerous companies you can obtain these from; just 
search the Internet for "phosphorescent pigments".
     So, you can either buy or make bubble solution to which you can add 
the glow pigment.  I suggest making the bubble solution which would not be 
hard: buy glycerine from the nearest drug store, along with lemon Joy dish 
detergent.  Classic bubble solution is made by mixing 1 cup detergent with 
16 cups of water and three tablespoons of glycerine.  In this case, you 
may opt to add much more glycerine and less water (to make the water 
thicker) so that the pigment will stay suspended a little longer than with 
clasic bubble solution you can buy.  Just before blowing the bubbles, you 
will need to shine light on a clear jar containing your concoction, and 
then give it a healthy stir to temporarily re-suspend the pigment.
     As for the different color bubbles, only fluorescent colors will add 
to the already greenish-yellow glow of the pigment, so you will need to 
get fluorescent dyes or pigments to add to your concoction.  Again, search 
the Internet for a company who can send you some samples of fluorescent 
dyes or pigments to try.  Good luck!

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