Stupid Question ™
Aug. 6, 1998
By John Ruch
Q: A couple weeks ago, you explained how those glow-in-the-dark necklaces work. Are there other uses for that process?
A: As I said last time, Magic in the Night Lite-Rope Necklaces, made by Massachusetts’ Omniglow Corp., are 22-inch plastic sticks that glow when bent. They’re full of Cyalume, the collective name for a bunch of chemicals that mix when you bend the stick and give off cold light.
Needless to say, toy necklaces are not the only use for Cyalume. It was invented by the American Cyanamid Company decades ago for use in general-purpose light sticks. Turned out people loved the idea of a temporary light source that doesn’t get hot, won’t blow out and works underwater.
Omniglow, the current owner of Cyalume, sells more than 100 chemiluminescent products. They include Flex-Stick fish lures, Snaplight light sticks, Liteshape stick-on buttons and the Glow Cross (“good for Christian rock concerts”).
Scuba divers use light sticks underwater. Miners use them around explosive gases. Sticks and buttons that glow in infrared are supplied to the military, which used them to label troops and mark landing zones in Desert Storm.
Lumiglow, Omniglow’s African distribution arm, markets Nitelite Nightgames—sporting equipment loaded with light sticks so they glow in the dark. The product line includes golf, football and flying disc equipment.
Cyalume has inspired inventors. Recent patent filings involving Cyalume include a glowing bubble-blowing mix, an underwater writing pad and a glowing-stemmed drinking glass.
According to the sort of web sites parents worry about, Cyalume has inspired pranksters as well. One recommends pouring Cyalume (from a slit-open stick) into a toilet along with dry ice and bubble bath so the owner “finds a horrible, green, glowing, frothing mass pouring from the john.”
Another suggests pouring Cyalume onto a sleeping roommate’s hand, then waking him up while saying, “Dude! You’re glowing!” (“Dude” should also know Cyalume can be a skin irritant.)
My favorite use of Cyalume, however, is Omniglow’s new Bovine Beacon. This adhesive button is put onto a cow’s hindquarters. When she’s mounted by a bull, his weight sets off the beacon, which glows red. This lets the farmer know the cow is in heat and ready for insemination, allowing him to be more efficient in breeding programs.
Bessie! You’re glowing!