What you'll need:
- A black light (you can find them at places like Walmart and hardware stores, as well as online stores like Amazon).
- Tonic water or a highlighter pen.
- A dark room to do the experiment.
- If you are using a highlighter pen carefully break it open, remove the felt and soak it in a small amount of water for a few minutes.
- Find a dark room.
- Turn on the black light near your water, how does it look?
The ultra violet (UV) light coming from your black light lamp excites things called phosphors. Tonic water and the dye from highlighter pens contain phosphors that turn UV light (light we can’t see) into visible light (light we can see). That’s why your water glows in the dark when you shine a black light on it.
Black lights are used in forensic science, artistic performances, photography, authentication of banknotes and antiques, and in many other areas.
Black light (also known as UV or ultra violet light) is a part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The electromagnetic spectrum also includes infrared, X-rays, visible light (what the human eye can see) and other types of electromagnetic radiation. A black light lamp such as the one you used emits a UV light that can illuminate objects and materials that contain phosphors. Phosphors are special substances that emit light (luminescence) when excited by radiation. Your water glowed under the black light because it contained phosphors. If you used a highlighter pen then the UV light reacted with phosphors in the dye. If you used tonic water then the UV light reacted with phosphors in a chemical used in tonic water called quinine.
There are different types of luminescence, they include fluorescence (used in this experiment, it glows only when the black light is on), phosphorescence (similar to fluorescence but with a glow that can last even after the black light is turned off), chemiluminescence (used to create glow sticks), bioluminescence (from living organisms) and many others.