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Making Candy Sparks

What You’ll Need:

- help from an adult
- Wint-O-Green Lifesavers
- a clear sandwich bag
- pliers
- a dark room, such as a windowless bathroom, where the air is dry, not humid

What to Do:

- Put a Lifesaver into the sandwich bag. The bag will protect your eyes from flying bits of candy.
- Make the room as dark as possible. (A rug laid along the bottom edge of the door can block out light.)
- Wait at least two minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness.
- Put the jaws of the pliers over the bag, with the Lifesaver between the crushing parts. Squeeze the pliers to crush the Lifesaver. The candy should give a flash of blue-green light.

How It Works

When a sugar crystal cracks, it releases energy in the form of an electrical spark. Like a tiny lightning bolt, this spark is made up of electrons moving through the air.

In the air, the electrons hit nitrogen molecules and give them some of their energy. Scientists say the nitrogen molecules become excited. The nitrogen can’t keep that energy. Just as it does in lightning, the nitrogen releases the energy as light. We see only part of the light. Most of it is invisible ultraviolet light.

The ultraviolet light gives some of its energy to wintergreen molecules in the candy. Like the nitrogen, the wintergreen becomes excited. Finally, the wintergreen molecules release the energy as blue-green light.

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