A Chemist Celebrates the International Year of Light

How to make a better glow stick

Happy New Year!  Did you know that 2015 is the International Year of Light (IYL)? IYL is a “global initiative adopted by the United Nations to raise awareness of how optical technologies promote sustainable development and provide solutions to worldwide challenges in energy, education, agriculture, communications and health1”.  IYL is sponsored by several organizations with interests in science and science education, including the European Physical Society, the Institute of Physics, the American Physical Society, and the American Institute of Physics.  You can find several lesson plans, videos and other educational resources on the IYL website2

As I searched through the list of partners on the IYL website3, I noticed a lack of organizations with interests in chemistry.  This surprised me, since light and chemistry go hand in hand in so many ways.  Dyes, spectroscopy, photosynthesis, photochemistry, LED’s and flame tests all quickly spring to my mind as just a few topics in which light and chemistry are interrelated.  Indeed, the theme of National Chemistry Week for 2015 (is it too early to start thinking about NCW?!) is “Chemistry Colors our World:  Exploring the Chemistry of Dyes, Pigments and Light”! 

Because of this strong connection between light and chemistry, I think that IYL has the potential to provide chemical educators with opportunities to raise awareness about chemistry.  Why should we let physicists have all the fun with IYL?!  In this vein, below is a video of a CHEMISTRY experiment I enjoy doing that also deals with light.  Happy 2015, everyone, and happy IYL!


1. http://www.light2015.org/Home.html

2.  http://www.light2015.org/Home/LearnAboutLight.html and http://www.light2015.org/Home/HandsOnInvolvement.html 

3.  http://www.light2015.org/Home/About/Sponsors.html


General Safety

For Laboratory Work: Please refer to the ACS Guidelines for Chemical Laboratory Safety in Secondary Schools (2016).  

For Demonstrations: Please refer to the ACS Division of Chemical Education Safety Guidelines for Chemical Demonstrations.

Other Safety resources

RAMP: Recognize hazards; Assess the risks of hazards; Minimize the risks of hazards; Prepare for emergencies