Triboluminescence

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Triboluminescence is an optical phenomenon in which light is generated when material is pulled apart, ripped, scratched, crushed, or rubbed (see tribology) through the breaking of chemical bonds in the material. The phenomenon is not fully understood, but appears to be caused by the separation and reunification of electrical charges. The term comes from the Greek τριβείν (to rub) and the Latin lumen (light). Triboluminescence can be observed when breaking sugar crystals (especially Wint-O-Green Life Savers) and peeling adhesive tapes.

This is a phenomenon that occurs during a popular outdoor evening program activity. Often if you go on a out on Tuesday evening, the kids all know about the candy that their friends got the night before, so I like prefacing the handing out of the life savers with a story that I learned from Karen.  Feel free to adjust it however you want.

This summer on vacation I was going spelunking. There was one cave that I really wanted to explore but the day we had planned to go, my friend/boyfriend/partner woke up with a bad headache and an upset stomach and couldn't go spurlunking. I was really bummed because I really wanted to go. I decided as long as my partner knew where I was it should be ok. I took extra percautions and brought a back up flashlight and back up batteries. I had my rope and helmet for extra protection. Headed into the cave and it was amazing. Stalagtites and stalagmites everywhere! Absolutely beautiful. Well I was exploring around when all of a sudden my flashlight went out. I figured it was no big deal because I brought back ups. Unfortunately neither backups worked either and I was forced to turn around. So I very slowly followed my rope out and as I was heading back to the outside I saw something glowing. I crawled towards it and I started feeling this glowing rock. I had no idea what it was, but it was so cool! Well of course I wanted to take a sample to show my partner and I still have some left over.

Now you can hand out the light savers and have them bite them to "make" the glowing rocks.