that penetrates the ocean is absorbed as it passes through
the surface layers of the water. Since solar radiation
does not reach the ocean depths, the bottom of the deep
ocean remains largely in complete darkness. However,
certain animals in this extreme environment can generate
light to communicate with each other, and even to lure
prey, thanks to a process known as bioluminescence.
is a form of chemiluminescence - the production of light
through chemical means. In contrast to light generated
by high temperatures which allows objects to get hot
(such as light bulbs, stars, or fireplace pokers), this
"cool" process relies on chemical reactions. When chemicals
combine, they release the energy that has been stored
in their chemical bonds. In chemiluminescent reactions,
this stored energy is released as light. In most bioluminescent
deep sea animals two basic chemicals - luciferin and
luciferase-combine to produce light as a by-product
of the reaction.
may also have seen chemiluminescent sticks, bracelets,
or other items that depend upon chemical reactions to
produce light. If you examine these items closely, you
will find that they consist of a sealed vial immersed
within another liquid. When the inner vial is crushed,
its contents mixes with the surrounding fluid. As the
chemicals combine, they generate visible light. In this
activity, you'll explore how the temperature of the
chemicals that combine affects a chemiluminescent reaction.
activity page will offer:
Introduction to chemiluminescence and bioluminescence
to observe the effect of temperature on reaction
that integrates art and science
- Three chemiluminescent sticks (also called "cool light
- Thermometer Beakers (large enough to submerge one stick)
- Ice water
- Warm water
- Room-temperature water
- Digital camera (optional)
NOTE: Cool light sticks are available at many toy
stores, marine supply stores, party goods stores, and stores
offering camping and fishing supplies.
- Work in a team of three students. Identify a space in
which the lights can be turned off and the shades drawn
- Fill one beaker with ice water. Fill another with room
temperature water. Fill a third one with lukewarm water.
- Insert a light stick in each of the water-filled beakers,
but do not activate it. Try to immerse as much of the stick
in the water bath as possible.
NOTE: You may have to tie a small weight onto the
stick to insure that it does not float to the surface.
- Wait several minutes. Then use a thermometer to measure
the temperature of the water in each of the three beakers.
Record these values.
- Activate all three light sticks.
- Shut the room lights. Compare and contrast the brightness
of the generated light. Which beaker contains the brightest
stick? Which beaker contains the dimmest stick? Record you
- If you have a digital camera, use it to capture a record
of the light generated by these side-by-side tubes. Make
sure that all three glowing sticks are included in the same
single image. Once the image is taken, you can return the
room lights to their normal level.
- At 15-minute intervals, dim the room lights. Use the digital
camera to capture additional images of the three glowing
- Continue comparing and contrast the relative brightness
of the three sticks. If applicable, note the time at which
each stick no longer appears to glow.
- In step 3, why was it necessary to place the light sticks
in the water-filled beakers for several minutes before performing
- In step 6, why was it necessary to include all three sticks
in the same image?
- In which beaker did the stick glow brightest?
- In which beaker did the stick glow dimmest?
- In which beaker did the glow last longest?
- In which beaker did the glow go away the quickest?
- Is the brightness of the glow related to the time that
this effect lasts? Explain.
- The rate of a reaction is dependent upon several factors,
including the temperature of the reaction vessel. How can
this concept be applied to your observations?
animals have light organs that are concentrated around the
eyes. Other organisms have strands of light spots that extend
their whole body length. Check
out this site to learn more about the placement patterns
of light organs in fish, cephalopods, jellyfish and other
For this activity, you'll need both a set of standard watercolor
paints and a small vial of glow-in-the-dark paint. You can
obtain all of these non-toxic paints from a local art store
or an Internet outlet. Use the standard paints to produce
images of various deep-sea fish and invertebrates. Then, use
the glowing paint to add a pattern of glowing spots to each
drawing. Challenge students to identify the painted subjects
by only the glowing patterns that are revealed in dimmed lighting.
activities in this guide were contributed by Michael DiSpezio,
a Massachusetts-based science writer and author of "Critical
Thinking Puzzles" and "Awesome Experiments in Light & Sound"
(Sterling Publishing Co., NY).
Academic Advisors for this Guide:
Corrine Lowen, Science Department, Wayland Public Schools,
Suzanne Panico, Science Teacher Mentor, Cambridge Public Schools,
Anne E. Jones, Science Department, Wayland Middle School,