Luminescent Candy

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I often get asked to photograph odd things, more times than not the project changes when an art director decides to take a different path for an article. Such requests are a great source of ideas.

In this case a request was for triboluminescence. This is where my background in physics and optics is a big help. Triboluminescence is an optical phenomenon in which light is generated when asymmetrical crystalline bonds in a material are broken when that material is crushed. There are a number of materials that do this including quartz, sugar and even ice. In this image I am hitting a wintergreen lifesaver candy fairly hard with a hammer. This is clearly visible to the human eye, but very difficult to capture with a camera. To get enough light 10 candies had to be smashed in the same location. The outline of the hammer and candy is a double exposure from a separate frame. This image conveys what you would see if you did this yourself- I hope some of the readers give it a try. The lifesavers also give off light as they are dissolved in solution - such as saliva in your mouth. This is a good excuse for you and a friend to go in a dark room and eat lifesavers. If you do not have a handy assistant for this experiment - use a mirror and look at your own mouth as you eat a wintergreen lifesaver. There is still a lot that is unknown about the physics of triboluminescence. As far a photographing the process in ice - that is top of my to-do-list.

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This post was written by Ted Kinsman for Photo Synthesis

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I tried to do this for a science project as a kid...but the results weren't exactly reproducible. :) Awesome photo!

This is awesome!

Are there particular lifesavers to use, or will any work?

BTW, they also give off a lot of heat, which wakes up a lot of ancient internal fear-type responses; dealing with this is also a necessary part of learning fire juggling.

BTW, they also give off a lot of heat, which wakes up a lot of ancient internal fear-type responses; dealing with this is also a necessary part of learning fire juggling.