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I make a family photo album every year to have a printed copy of all our fun family photos and memories. The albums take me months and months to make because I sort through the thousands of photos on my phone, organize the selected photos in a logical way, and then make it look nice in the album.

Here’s an example of a page from our 2022 album – I even include our science experiments!

I recently started working on my 2023 family album and found photos of this experiment! With our busy family schedule the photos somehow got lost in my phone. My jaw dropped because I didn’t even remember that we had done this experiment until I saw the photos! I couldn’t believe we did this experiment over a year ago and never shared it.

It’s a shame I didn’t share this sooner because this experiment is SO COOL! But at least I found the photos and I am sharing it with you now – better late than never, and it made a good story to start this post ;).

I saw this experiment on TheSpaceGal’s instagram, and it looked so fun and simple that I bought a blacklight flashlight to try it! I hadn’t ever done any glowing experiments before this because we didn’t have a blacklight.

I had planned on doing more glowing experiments for the blog because I bought the blacklight, but we haven’t done any others yet. Hopefully we can make time to do some experiments over spring break next week! Let’s all get our money’s worth on the blacklight flashlight by doing lots of glowing experiments. 😉

Materials:

  • Clear glass cup or jar
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Turmeric powder
  • Blacklight (we used this flashlight)

Procedure:

  1. Pour alcohol into the glass cup or jar (I filled my small cup about 3/4 full).
  1. Close your windows and turn off all the lights to make your room very dark.
  2. Turn on the blacklight flashlight and aim in towards the cup filled with alcohol.
impatiently waiting for something to glow! 😉
  1. Carefully start to sprinkle the turmeric into the alcohol. It will start to glow and “explode” like fireworks before your eyes! Continue adding turmeric to the alcohol to keep watching the fireworks as long as you like.

STEAM Concepts Learned

When I first learned of this experiment I wondered why we have to use isopropyl alcohol instead of water for this experiment. Before I researched why, we experimented both ways. We were surprised to find that the turmeric in the water didn’t have the same bright glow or firework-like movement!

This is turmeric in water. Turmeric in water doesn’t glow as spectacularly as the turmeric in alcohol!

The turmeric glows and moves better in alcohol because it is more soluble in alcohol than in water. You can see in our picture above the turmeric has a very slight glow in the water, but no where near the brightness seen in alcohol. I highly encourage you to try it both ways (water and alcohol) with your kids too!

Turmeric gets its bright orange color from a chemical compound called curcumin. The electrons in the curcumin molecules absorb energy from UV light (this is our blacklight) and move to an excited state. They then lose some of the energy to vibration, and as they return to ground state the rest of the energy is released as visible light that we see as the “glow”.

My kids and I had so much fun with this experiment. It’s so simple and uses everyday materials we have around home, so now we can repeat this again and again.

We can’t wait to try some more glowing experiments soon! Are you going to get a blacklight flashlight at try this experiment too? Let us know if you’d like to see more glowing experiments.

If you liked the fireworks in a jar idea, but don’t have a blacklight, try our Underwater Fireworks in a Jar experiment. All you need is water, oil, and food coloring!

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