Cracking Cold Light is a 50 minute workshop aimed at introducing the basics of rates of reaction and the scientific method through a chemiluminescence context. The workshop is delivered by a team of students from the University of Bath (usually led by me) and can be aimed at a KS2 or KS3 audience. Group sizes can be from 10 to 30 depending on the number of students we can bring. Cracking Cold Light has been delivered at the 2011 Cheltenham Science Festival and will be delivered again in 2012.

Students are introduced to the concept of chemiluminescence in a short 5 minute talk at the start before getting stuck straight in with their own investigation. Creating their own mixtures of an oxalate ester with different strengths of oxidising agents, catalysts and laser dyes they try to produce the best possible mixture to recommend to a glow stick manufacturer.

For teachers interested in setting up the experiemnt themselves at school, this activity is based on previous RSC Teacher Fellow Roger Nixon’s School Science Review paper from the March 2011 edtion. With the assistance of  Zinnia Wooliams who worked at Bath for a WEX placement in the summer I’ve adapted the solvent mixtures to produce better results. The production of the esters themselves and an investigation into the effect of solvent polarity and different catalysts on the reaction profile would be an ideal EPQ or Salters A-level investigation. Pop me an email if you want more information.