Can Wint-O-Green Lifesavers® Light up Your Life?
Next time you're bored, grab a pack of Wint-O-Green Lifesavers® and lock yourself in the bathroom. Shut the blinds and make sure the room is pitch black. Allow your eyes to adjust and open the pack of lifesavers. Bear your teeth and bite a Wint-O-Green Lifesaver® in half. Bite the Lifesaver® some more, and try not to get them wet. Did you see sparks? Wow!
When light flashes due to a material being fractured or deformed, it is called triboluminescence; tribo meaning 'friction' and luminescence meaning 'to emit light'. For almost three hundred years, scientists didn't know what was causing these sparks to occur. Now, they attribute it to an asymmetry in a crystal that shifts or relaxes when the crystal is crushed or deformed. The energy given off when this asymmetry relaxes comes in the form of light.
Wint-O-Green Lifesavers® are made from sugar and wintergreen flavoring. The sugar forms a crystal, and the wintergreen flavoring is the impurity needed to give the crystal an asymmetric structure. Other materials do this too, such as adhesive tape and sugar cubes. So, next time you want to freshen your breath, remember, you are also creating electric sparks!
About the Author
Willa Larsen, MS
Willa Larsen writes on a wide array of topics for ScienceIQ. Willa received a BS in physics from University of Colorado and a MS in materials science and engineering from UCLA. She previously worked making infrared detectors for the Hubble, missiles and surveillance equipment. Willia is the publisher of WillasArk.com which helps fund animal rescue.