Tag Archives: chemlight

Who Invented Glow Sticks?

And Why?


The U.S. Government funded research in the chemical generation of light from 1963 through 1984. Those initial scientists, working out of Naval Air Weapons Center China Lake, were trying to recreate the bioluminescent qualities of fireflies when they discovered chemiluminescence – the chemistry that powers light sticks today.

Fifteen separate research contracts were awarded to American Cyanamid Company over this time period for the specific purpose of developing practical lighting systems that would not generate heat or require electricity to operate.

Cyalume Technologies is American Cyanamid’s spun-off chemical light department. So, when we say we’ve been around since the dawn of chemical light – we mean it!

“That’s pretty cool. What else have you invented?”

Glad you asked! Since the American Cyanamid days, our research and development team, based out of Massachusetts, has invented all sorts of things – new molecules, scientific processes, form factors, chemical light product designs and tactical and safety applications for chemical light. Some of these are available to consumers today, and others are available only to the US military and approved organizations.

We are extremely proud of our involvement in the creation of chemical light in the 1960’s and especially honored to still be the sole supplier of chemical light to the US Armed Forces all these years later. We believe it’s a true testament to our commitment to quality and innovation.

Learn more about Cyalume.

How Long Do Glow Sticks Last?

Standard Light Stick Durations and the Chemistry Behind Intensity

how long do glow sticks last

Standard durations for Cyalume light sticks range from 5 minutes (high-intensity) to 12 hours, including a variety of durations in between. Each of these durations is tested to perform at 72 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s important to note the temperature because this can have an impact on the stick performance.

For instance, an ambient temperature above 72 degrees could potentially increase the rate of the chemical reaction that creates the light, making the stick appear brighter for a shorter period of time. Colder temperatures have the opposite effect – the reaction slows, making the stick appear less bright but for a longer period of time. If you want to increase the lifespan of an activated glow stick – try throwing it in the freezer!

How are the different standard variations (5 minute, 30 minute, 8 hour, 12 hour, etc.) achieved?

To create a desired intensity and duration, quantities and concentrations of certain ingredients can be altered. For example, the Cyalume 5 Minute High-Intensity ChemLight has very high concentration of active ingredients, creating an incredible intensity and the brightest light stick made today.

Given the higher concentration of active ingredients, the molecules that emit light are more active. Thanks to this hyperactivity, the light stick won’t last nearly as long as a 12 hour one, but it will be extremely bright for 5 minutes before slowly fading out.

How long do Cyalume’s competitors last?

It’s common practice in the industry to not list a duration on light stick packaging. This is because the companies really aren’t sure – there is no quality standard or testing process to ensure performance. Since Cyalume is standard issue equipment for the US Armed Forces, we take these things very seriously.

Stringent quality control, proprietary formulations and decade of experience (dating back to the creation of chemical light technology) result in Cyalume product performing at the highest levels every time.

Ever wondered who invented glow sticks & chemical lights? We answered that question, too. Learn here.