Short answer: No! Glowsticks can degrade your tubes and cause your prop to shatter.


In 2005, we received a report of a flowstaff shattering. We were quite surprised, as polycarbonate is used in bulletproofing, so we did some experiments and discovered that glowsticks can make polycarbonate brittle!


Our experiment: We placed glowsticks in separate polycarbonate tubes and sealed the tubes with caps. The results were as follows:

  • an un-"snapped" inactive glowstick had no effect on the polycarbonate tube
  • a "snapped" (activated) glowstick caused the tube to crack in a few spots, when hit hard with a hammer the day after the glowstick was activated
  • a “snapped” and cut open (leaking) glowstick caused the tube to crack into many pieces w/o us even touching it!


We experimented with top-quality glowsticks and are not surprised that, in extreme conditions (e.g. Burning Man) or with lower quality glowsticks, enough chemicals could have been emitted to cause an entire staff to shatter.


More findings: We did some research and found this explanation from the GE chemical compatibilities guide to polycarbonate -- Esters: Cause severe crystallization. Partial solvents. Avoid.


Glowsticks contain esters and work like this: There are two fluids separated by a glass vial inside a plastic one (the glowstick) when you bend the stick it breaks the vial and the fluids mix. The hydrogen peroxide oxidizes the phenyl oxalate ester and forms phenol and an unstable peroxyacid ester. The unstable peroxyacid ester decomposes, resulting in phenol and a cyclic peroxy compound. The cyclic peroxy compound decomposes to carbon dioxide. This decomposition reaction releases the energy that excites the fluorescent dye that emits the light/color of the glowstick. Interesting stuff huh?


If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us!