Lightning In A Bottle #SweetFailures

Written by: Ben Hall

I think it’s pretty safe to say that most of us have seen Star Wars and have wondered what it would be like to shoot lightning from our hands like a Sith lord, but alas, that’s probably never going to happen. However, what we can do is make lightning in a bottle. Not as cool, I know, but it’s still a lot of fun to do!

To achieve lightning in a bottle, the Undergrad Programs Team gathered in our top secret laboratory and began plotting. Mwhahaha! (Evil, maniacal laugher) We found some pretty simple instructions on the internet and got started. Turns out all we needed to buy was a bag of wintergreen mints and pour those into a blender.

Beaker3_280

Does not reflect actual results.

Before I tell you how our experiment went, I should probably talk about the science behind it. The phenomenon we’re talking about today is called triboluminescence. This occurs when two materials rub together and cause a spark. Essentially, this is light from friction. The table sugar (sucrose) is in the same spectrum as lightning. That’s where we get lightning in a bottle.

 

Okay, so back to our lightning. It worked! But, it was very faint and very brief. So there was no #SweetFailure in this experiment, but we did learn a lot. First, you need fresh mints for best results. Second, to make the most ‘lightning’ happen, you need to make sure that the mints are whole. If you have those two squared away, you’re ready to get started.

View our lightning here: http://vimeo.com/109937952

When you do this at home, make sure you are prepared for lots of noise! It’s loud. Also, be prepared for your house to smell like wintergreen mints. So fresh and so clean, clean.

Materials:

  • Wintergreen lifesavers
  • Blender

Procedure:

  • Unwrap lifesavers and place them into a blender.
  • Make sure the room is completely dark.
  • Turn on the blender and observe the blue “sparks” from the candy as it is being crushed.
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