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Duck Tape Triboluminescence

Glow in the Dark Duck Tape Experiment

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Duck tape is one of several types of friction tape that will exhibit triboluminescence.

Duck tape is one of several types of friction tape that will exhibit triboluminescence.

Tapeboy, Wikipedia Commons
You can use duck tape to see an example of triboluminescence, the glow given off when some materials are subjected to mechanical stress or friction. The duck tape (or duct tape) triboluminescence project is extremely easy and only take a few seconds to try. It doesn't matter whether you call the tape duck tape or duct tape, but your results seem to depend partially on the brand you use: Henkel™ works well.

What You Do

Tear off two strips of tape. Stick the pieces together with the sticky sides facing each other, leaving enough tape so that you can pull the strips apart. Turn out the lights. Give your eyes a minute or two to adjust to the dark. Pull the strips of tape apart.

What Happened

Did you see the blue line where the tape separated? This is triboluminescence, which is a type of luminescence triggered by mechanical energy or electrical energy from an action such as friction. You can get the same effect from other types of tape as well. A good one to try is transparent Scotch™ tape. If you have a hard time separating strips of tape with their sticky sides together, you can see the triboluminescent glow simply by pulling the tape (quickly) off of the roll, thought the light will not be quite as bright.

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