Greetings fellow nerds! So i was at the hardware store and i noticed this package of resin hardener. Now this is used for initiating the hardening process of fiberglass resin and other polymers like styrenes. Its primary ingredient is an interesting chemical called methyl ethyl ketone peroxide. This is a type of organic peroxide and like the more common hydrogen peroxide it has two oxygen atoms bonded together. Now hydrogen peroxide activates glow sticks. So i was wondering would this stuff work in the same capacity? More importantly would it work better than the cheaper hydrogen peroxide? Now my first hypothesis is no, because glow sticks use a polar mechanism and the hydrogen peroxide is fully consumed in that reaction. Organic peroxides activate polymerization through a free radical mechanism and are only partly consumed. But then again i’ve been blatantly wrong before and i wanted to see how far i would get. Afterall research is most fun when it teaches you something new. So here i am setting for the classic glow stick reaction. I’ve got my solvent of dimethyl phthalate and i’m mixing it with some TCPO. About half a gram. You might be wondering why i’m using dimethyl phthalate instead of my usual diethyl phthalate. Dimethyl phthalate happened to be cheaper this year so i bought that instead. A lot of times in chemistry you buy stuff because it’s the cheapest available rather than because it’s the best. Okay now i’m adding in our favorite dye, 9,10-bis(phenylethynyl) anthracene which will give us the popular green glow of glow sticks. Let me shake that up. Now i’m not yet adding in our base, sodium acetate, because i want to see if this organic peroxide works without it. If it’s better and more reactive than hydrogen peroxide then maybe it won’t need a base. Okay now that it’s all mixed up. We now add the resin hardener containing our organic methyl ethyl ketone peroxide. I’m adding a few drops. Nothing seems to be happening yet. Let me shake it up. Okay doesn’t seem like anything is happening. Let’s add in the sodium acetate base now since that’s generally needed when working with a weak chemiluminescent substrate like TCPO. Oh! It looks like something is happening. The sodium acetate powder is glowing. Possibly indicating a reaction. Let me shake it up to distribute it. Ummů yeahů Not really workingů. Let me add in some more of the methyl ethyl ketone peroxide. I’m adding about ten drops or so. It might be working a bit, but it’s rather dim. I’m going to let it sit to see if just needs some time. Okay at this point i’d call this a failure. Although it does seem to be glowing a bit, it does not possess superior qualities to straight hydrogen peroxide as an activator. I might be able to get decent glow if i used a lot more, but the high cost of this methyl ethyl ketone peroxide doesn’t seem to justify it. I’d be better off spending my money on hydrogen peroxide. Okay it’s been a couple of minutes and the glow hasn’t improved. I’m now going to add in actual hydrogen peroxide. This is to test if our test itself is working. Maybe i have bad TCPO giving me a false negative result. Now i know this is a lot of hydrogen peroxide i’m using but it’s very cheap so can. Afterall i was hoping the organic peroxide would be superior so i wouldn’t need this much. Anyway, there we go. That is a real glow stick reaction. So i guess we learned that organic peroxide doesn’t beat hydrogen peroxide as a glow stick activator. Another failure. But if was already absolutely certain of the outcome it wouldn’t be research. Now interestingly enough I was looking for cleaning agents and i found this so called environmentally friendly cleaner. It claims to contain sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide. Now technically it does but in a crystalline powder form. This substance is sodium percarbonate and is essentially sodium carbonate. But rather than being hydrated with water as ionic crystals commonly are, it’s an adduct with hydrogen peroxide. You can also find this stuff in more commonly available OxiClean powder. But that’s full of other chemicals and detergents so i don’t recommend it. Try and find cleaners like this that claim to be pure and are just sodium percarbonate. This stuff costs similar to high grade hydrogen peroxide so it might be a convenient source for glow sticks. Let’s give it a try. So here i am making my glow stick formula again. Dimethyl Phthalate, add in some TCPO, and a dash of 9,10-bis(phenylethynyl) anthracene dye and i give it a good shake. I’m not adding in the base of sodium acetate this time because sodium percarbonate is already a base as it has sodium carbonate in it. Maybe we can save on another reagent this way. Okay now we add the sodium percarbonate. I’m not sure how much is optimal, but for now i’ll just add a similar amount to our TCPO. Okay, let me turn off the lights. Not much happening yet. Let me give it a shake. Not much happening either. But you know, it might be because the sodium percarbonate crystals don’t dissolve in dimethyl phthalate. And if they don’t dissolve then we can’t release the hydrogen peroxide. Okay let me turn the lights back on. I guess the next logical step is to add some water. The water should dissolve the sodium percarbonate and release the hydrogen peroxide. Okay, let me turn off the lights again and give it another shake. Oh, there we go. Something is happening. Wow, now that is a glow stick reaction. Looks like sodium percarbonate based cleaners can work for glow sticks. This seems to be a viable alternative to regular hydrogen peroxide and sodium acetate. The costs and availability are similar depending on where you live so use whichever one is easier to acquire. I think Oxiclean can work as well but with diminished performance. So there you go, we tested some alternative peroxides and found organic methyl ethyl ketone peroxide to be unusable but sodium percarbonate to work quite well. Thanks for watching. Special thank you to all of my supporters on patreon for making these science videos possible with their donations and their direction. If you are not currently a patron, but like to support the continued production of science videos like this one, then check out my patreon page here or in the video description. I really appreciate any and all support.

Testing Alternative Peroxide Sources for Glow Sticks
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75 thoughts on “Testing Alternative Peroxide Sources for Glow Sticks

  • November 24, 2016 at 9:11 pm
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    Still editing, but i hope to have a video on a nuclear battery by next week. Week after at the latest.

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  • November 24, 2016 at 9:16 pm
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    i though methyl ethyl ketone peroxide was an explosive

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  • November 24, 2016 at 9:21 pm
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    Hello nurdrage
    I'm currently studying in the 10th grade and my chemistry isn't particularly impressive, im still able to pull off an A by studying the topics over and over again but whenever I start to study a new topic it seems really difficult, since you are an amazing chemist I'd love to know how you approached chemistry in school

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  • November 24, 2016 at 9:21 pm
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    I'd like to see you try it with oxyclean next

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  • November 24, 2016 at 9:24 pm
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    Isn't that MEKP? isn't that explosive?

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  • November 24, 2016 at 9:26 pm
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    is there a way to purify MEKP from hardener without losing a finger from an explosion??
    try synthesizing pure MEKP with MEK, hydrogen peroxide and HCl and use that

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  • November 24, 2016 at 9:30 pm
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    You are a badass ^_^

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  • November 24, 2016 at 9:33 pm
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    try carbamide peroxide

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  • November 24, 2016 at 9:37 pm
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    is there a way to make the glowstick reaction "reversible" once it has fully reacted?

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  • November 24, 2016 at 9:43 pm
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    Is the dye needed to make it glow or it's just to scatter the light more?

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  • November 24, 2016 at 9:44 pm
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    And also I'm just wondering if you could synthesise MDMA. Not how or do you, or do you can 🙂

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  • November 24, 2016 at 9:53 pm
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    Would anyone of higher chemical knowledge than me answer this?
    If say I wanted to paint my car wheels(rims) with fluorescent paint, which would be the best? consider it needs to last atleast the time it tales for the tire to spin once as I will have ultraviolet lights to recharge the light. Thanks in advance for any answers

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  • November 24, 2016 at 10:07 pm
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    You literally read my mind. I had seen the ChemPlayer video on sodium percarbonate, and in the beginning of the video I was wondering if it would work. Then you come along and actually demonstrate it! Very nice!

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  • November 24, 2016 at 10:30 pm
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    The solvent originally had water. Or was it some kind of anhydrous solvent?

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  • November 24, 2016 at 10:38 pm
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    How extracted silver from a old keyboard

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  • November 24, 2016 at 10:39 pm
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    what about using acne cream with benzoyl peroxide or the cleaning agent peracetic acid as a peroxide source?

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  • November 24, 2016 at 11:18 pm
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    Why is it called "methyl ethyl ketone peroxide"? Can't see any ketone group attached to the structure… Do we lose the ketone group when the original substance changes to a peroxide? Sometimes the nomenclature is just hopeless in my opinion :/

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  • November 24, 2016 at 11:34 pm
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    The sodium bicarbonate looks like it is relatively coarse, would crushing/grinding it give a better result?

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  • November 25, 2016 at 12:06 am
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    With more sodium acetate or stronger base, would it work better ?

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  • November 25, 2016 at 12:08 am
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    Kept dry and cool, it would be neat to have a 'instant glowstick powder just add liquid' and the crystaline peroxide might be a good step to this.
    I also wonder if it has a longer shelf life.

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  • November 25, 2016 at 12:11 am
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    How was the illumination duration and brightness made with the natural cleaner compared with the original control formula?

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  • November 25, 2016 at 12:27 am
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    Cool video as always man ☺☺

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  • November 25, 2016 at 1:02 am
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    Now, could it be possible to make this whole mess work as a dry powder, just add water to make glow? Would give it an insane shelf life.

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  • November 25, 2016 at 1:17 am
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    I love when you fail

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  • November 25, 2016 at 1:41 am
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    here in Italy you can buy diluted and concentrated H2O2 pretty much everywhere (even supermarkets sell this stuff for hair discoloring) and you can buy it relatively cheap.

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  • November 25, 2016 at 1:51 am
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    I mean, I have the popcorn

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  • November 25, 2016 at 3:10 am
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    We learn more from one failure, than we do from 100 successes. Great video as always.

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  • November 25, 2016 at 4:04 am
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    what would happen if you substituted turmeric for the dye?

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  • November 25, 2016 at 4:42 am
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    what about lithium peroxide?

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  • November 25, 2016 at 4:58 am
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    isn't MEKP a high explosive??

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  • November 25, 2016 at 5:34 am
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    Wait is MEK peroxide not explosive

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  • November 25, 2016 at 6:18 am
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    Isnt methyl ethyl ketone peroxide also a shock sensitive high explosive?

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  • November 25, 2016 at 6:34 am
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    dr. what will happen when we use a powerful oxidizers in glow stick reaction such as potassium chlorate or liquid oxygen?? please give me reply. and suggestion

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  • November 25, 2016 at 6:39 am
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    mr.nurdrage; how to make deuterium.can you make video?

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  • November 25, 2016 at 7:59 am
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    did you check the MSDS(s) before testing to find the % of the peroxide substitute before testing?

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  • November 25, 2016 at 8:39 am
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    Is there a method for obtaining hydrogen peroxide in good concentration by liberating the peroxide the sodium percarbonate adduct? I'm aware that it's often used in laboratories as an anhydrous source of hydrogen peroxide, but I'm wondering if you could make a strong solution from the powder, and crystalise/isolate the carbonate.

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  • November 25, 2016 at 9:21 am
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    damn man your using MEKP and your shaking the bottle? 🙂 damn…

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  • November 25, 2016 at 10:06 am
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    Now I wonder : could you make hydrogen peroxide by adding some acid to a cleaning agent that contains percarbonates (or perborates), and then distilling the peroxide out?

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  • November 25, 2016 at 10:19 am
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    I honestly didn't expect either alternative to work…

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  • November 25, 2016 at 11:12 am
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    These graphics are nice !

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  • November 25, 2016 at 12:27 pm
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    Alkaline hydrolysis using aqueous NaOH might release the peroxide of the MEKP.

    Make me cringe tho, using precious MEKP for this, costs 7 bucks for a few mls here in aus!

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  • November 25, 2016 at 1:26 pm
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    please tell me that the footage of the percarbonate shaking wasn't sped up and you have a fast as shit shaky-jerky hand motion

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  • November 25, 2016 at 2:19 pm
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    Is there any good/feasible way to extract pure solution of H2O2 from percarbonate?

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  • November 25, 2016 at 2:23 pm
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    I really like how you added in the failed experiment as well!

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  • November 25, 2016 at 4:07 pm
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    Now if only we knew how to make Hydrogen Peroxide. The best I can get locally is only 6%

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  • November 25, 2016 at 4:50 pm
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    I can't say I'm super interested glow sticks but this makes me wonder how these peroxide sources would work for acid and peroxide circuit board etchant?

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  • November 25, 2016 at 6:56 pm
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    Hmn, guess I should dump some oxiclean onto my luminol for a lil' test.

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  • November 25, 2016 at 7:17 pm
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    Thanks for the video

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  • November 25, 2016 at 10:24 pm
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    NutsRage, can you do an analysis on the bioluminescence of foxfire fungi?

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  • November 25, 2016 at 11:21 pm
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    Would sodium peroxide or something like that work, going with your original theory?

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  • November 26, 2016 at 7:25 am
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    you should do an easy video on how to concentrate H2O2. you'll make money on it,it's very cheap to concentrate via 3% from the hardware store and it will be widely watched

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  • November 26, 2016 at 8:31 am
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    This would be interesting dry pack emergency glow stick. Much lighter than normal but all need to add is little amount of water and shake till it breaks down and glows.

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  • November 26, 2016 at 6:04 pm
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    Hey NurdRage,  Do you think potassium peroxymonosulfate would work?

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  • November 26, 2016 at 10:55 pm
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    when you said what was in the second one i was surprised when it didn't work straight away. i suppose i forget that the peroxide acts as a solvent to the base.

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  • November 28, 2016 at 2:16 pm
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    Where can I buy these materials?

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  • November 28, 2016 at 4:31 pm
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    Surprised you didn't try the urea-peroxide adduct as an organic peroxide. Commonly found in whitening toothpastes, but very small quantities, so it would be an interesting comparison to show is a toothpaste would work in any way comparable to the home-made or relatively pure, lab grade material. Initially, I'd expect it not to due to it being so dilute, but any result from it would be somewhat promising.

    Along the same lines would be ammonium persulfate with some water as it produces H2O2 when added to water.

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  • November 28, 2016 at 6:12 pm
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    would the combination with the sodium percarbonate, up to the point of adding water be stable for long term storage? Say , adding water later to activate the glow stick or would having the water mixed with the other liquids and the sodium percarbonate added later be better for shelf life?

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  • November 29, 2016 at 2:24 pm
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    Did you say the solvent was cheaper at sears?

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  • November 30, 2016 at 2:52 pm
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    Great video. You were able to show failure while still making it fun and informative. I'd like to see more research based videos like this.

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  • December 1, 2016 at 11:26 pm
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    YouTube never showed me this video either, ffs.

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  • December 3, 2016 at 5:49 pm
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    yeaaa it glowed with cleaner niice

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  • December 3, 2016 at 7:55 pm
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    Nurd! If you can make coca cola or Mountain dew glow in the dark without a blacklight, AND make it still drinkable; I will pay you an undescribed amount of money. Please, PLEASE make glowing foodstuffs a reality. WITHOUT A BLACKLIGHT.

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  • December 9, 2016 at 6:49 pm
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    Is it possible to create a rechargable glow stick ? By having a partly used hydroxide and then reversing the equilibrium to the left ?

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  • December 15, 2016 at 3:15 pm
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    Awesome vid. Really like this kind of thing.
    Would like to see more. Keep it up.

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  • December 20, 2016 at 12:43 am
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    I wonder if sodium perborate would work.

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  • February 21, 2017 at 8:39 pm
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    Nuka cola quantum

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  • March 14, 2017 at 12:35 am
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    first year chem major here. im stoked to say i predicted the addition of water to dissolve the sodium percarbonate about 1.5 seconds before you in the video. still a young padawan but getting there!

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  • April 28, 2017 at 8:40 pm
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    +Nurdrage I wonder if the glow solution with the sodium percarbonate is stable. If so, you could load the glow stick with the normal solution plus sodium percarbonate and an ampule of water. The ampule of water could then act as an activation device. Probably no real benefit one way or the other, but somehow fascinatingly cool.

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  • September 25, 2017 at 8:59 pm
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    It's not a flat WORLD!!! It more of a cube with a pointy bit and with holes and it moves and stays still am I thee! only one whom knows thee truth if so it is maketabul and how dose one go about selling this ?.

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  • December 28, 2017 at 10:22 am
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    is this not explosive ? MEKP

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  • October 16, 2018 at 11:42 pm
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    The soap works make some nice products. They have some nice clays and hand/body soaps

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  • January 11, 2019 at 7:56 am
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    Ya know we never did get that 1,000 foot long glow stick…

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  • February 6, 2019 at 9:42 pm
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    I know I'm a bit late to the party on this one, but there was a "The King Of Random" video where they found that dish soap made regular glow-sticks glow much brighter. I'd be interested to hear what you think could be the cause of that.

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  • May 1, 2019 at 4:50 pm
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    Next see if you can isolate the methyl ethyl ketone peroxide

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  • August 8, 2019 at 1:49 pm
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    MEKP is explosive, isn't it?

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