Zinc Sulfide Glow Power At Home

Further solidifying her mad-scientist persona, [Jeri Ellsworth] is making glow powder with household chemicals. When we saw the title of the video we though it would be fun to try it ourselves, but the first few minutes scared that out of us.

To gather the raw materials she puts some pennies in a bench motor and files them into powder. From there it’s trial and error with different cleaners and tools to create just the right dangerous reaction to get the chemical properties she’s looking for.

Check out her experiments after the break. And if you find you’re wanting more, go back and take a look at her EL wire fabrication process.


40 thoughts on “Zinc Sulfide Glow Power At Home

  1. not everywhere, but in the US, yes, it is… but that law is really old and was more meant to stop people from removing small amounts of valuable material from the coins back when the value of the coin was more or less the value of the material it was made of. Is this still enforced today? You see a lot of projects involving destroying currency or at least making it unusable.

  2. very cool to watch, but not something im gonna try :) I learned my lesson trying to make sparklers once hehe.

    This gave me a cool idea, Paint a wall in the store bought kind and build machine to use the grafitti capture, and play it back using a laser on the wall.

  3. It is most certainly NOT illegal to destroy currency or even alter it as long as you are not trying to pass it off as being of a different value. Fraudulent intent is the key here. I once had to weld some aluminum and had none of that alumalloy so I made my own by melting zinc pennies and aluminum together. Worked perfectly.

  4. Lets say it is illegal to destroy currency…. We should totally spend thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) to bring her to justice for destroying some pennies! This seems worth the time of our federal detectives…

    Think McFly, Think!

  5. It’s better to cut or grind a little off the top and bottom of the penny then melt the zinc out with a propane torch (zinc has a lower melting point than copper) that way you wont get copper mixed in.

  6. well neat but not very informative for someone to actually replicate.

    what are the proportions? what is the tarn-x used for? what are the proportion with the tarn-x.

    like i said, it is neat that it can be done at home, but not much in the way of recreating it.

  7. Don’t use tarn-x it has to many impurities the urea based cold packs are much much better(they are pure urea), again it’s the impurities that cause the glow to fade quickly. The addition of strontium and europium(tiny amounts) will also increase glow time and luminosity.
    strontium carbonate, strontium lactate and strontium gluconate are available as supplements for people with osteoporosis (it’s NOT the highly radioactive strontium 90!)

    I have no idea where to get europium although I think it’s used for the red phosphors in crt screens.
    Again you need TINY amounts of them(europium and strontium) more wont help just like the copper doping the amount is almost to hard for the average home hobbyist to measure.

  8. neat, must try this…

    an idea for adding the required dopant, obtain a carbon electrode and deposit the copper, etc onto that. Then dunk into the solution and wait until it is dissolved and you will know exactly how much is added based on the current and time.

  9. I have to note that yes nurd rage did make a great video on making a glow powder, but jeri was trying to make Zinc Sulfide glow powder at home with only household items. Which Zinc Sulfide can be used in electroluminesence, and one EL substance is ZnS:Cu.

  10. The thiourea in TarnX has some potential for other applications; imersion tin plate for circuit boards, for example. I’m glad that someone mentioned it; thiourea is otherwise hard to find!

  11. About 12 months ago I ran a few experiments with zinc sulPHATE (not sulfide). Process was…
    Attach a metal file to an electric jigsaw.
    Grind down the zinc from AA batteries. In Australia we don’t have pennies.
    Grind down copper from plumbing fittings.
    Keep some of the black stuff from the batteries (manganese dioxide).
    Crushed up garden sulphur until fine powder.

    Mix the ingredients together. Hold a flame over the mixture until it all starts bubbling away.
    Let this cool down and dry. It becomes a brittle crust. Hold a flame again to this and it will ignite violently (face protection required).

    If you do this with just sulphur and zinc you get Zinc Sulphate. For electroluminescence we need this to be doped with copper, and perhaps manganese depending on the colour we want.

    Reading up on this, mostly by patent searchs, industrial setups do this in a vacuum chamber and fume the copper and in the mixture at only a few parts per million. Because my mixture is ignited just in air, I used much higher amounts of copper in some mixes, and copper + manganese in others. Still most of the mixture was equal parts zinc/sulphur.

    Then with the powder that resulted I started probing it with the 2 wires from an EL circuit. Results were mostly disheartening. There was however 1 eureka moment. With one particular mixture I got a noticeable very red glow. This mixture had a bit more zinc than it had sulphur, maybe 25% more. It had “a dash” of copper and of manganese. It worked on a section of the ash maybe 2mm wide. After breaking that piece of ash apart it no longer worked.

    Having been a bit too busy with other things since then, that is as far as it went. The intention has been to come back to it to play around with the ratios a bit more later when time permits.

    That’s my mostly failed experimenting so far. I mention all of this hoping it might help someone take it further. I do have questions for Jeri though. Have you tried including manganese in your zinc sulfide? You may have even answered this in your video but I’m at McBurger joint on free wifi which keeps timing out after 5 seconds – damn that hamburglar.

    Also, at the start of your video I notice you demonstrated the glow with a torch. Have you tried it with an EL circuit?

    1. that’s just nerd entertainment…I’ve been looking on how to do this for days and I have a can of glow in the dark paint 3 feet away…trying to cast a Zinc railroad spike and now working on some kind of added effect…boredom

  12. College and high school chemistry books of the 1910’s-1970’s era might be enlightening. It was not unusual to find discussions of a variety of interesting topics, and passing high voltage through substrates of various dried emulsions certainly counts as interesting.

  13. ^@coinguy:

    Did you even read the contents of what you linked to?

    The text of the site in your link clearly states that certain activities, such as those in Jeri’s experiment, are specifically allowed, and are not illegal…

  14. “@Trollicus – We are not looking for urea, but thiourea that has a sulfur atom in place of the carbon in urea.” Jeri

    Ahh, I just caught that, hmm gives me ideas for other uses for tarnX.

    Great project by the way, have you tried using a shield gas (as in a MIG welder) such as argon to keep oxygen out? You could try heating it under pressure (maybe between two pennies in a vise) while using an argon shield gas.

    Oh, and you could try doping with silver for a nice blue color(use dimes?)

    Just some suggestion, I’m no chemist (I’m an EE) and be careful!

  15. I don’t understand the fascination of making your own glow things. Is it worth breathing all these fumes? I mean what is more important? your health or make glowing things with household materials?

    We have laws preventing people from smoking even in public parks because it subjects other people to 2nd hand smoking. But one can generate all sorts of toxic gasses in their garage and that’s cool because it is science.

  16. Defacing or destroying money is only illegal…if you try to use it as money, after the fact. While it’s in your possession, you can do whatever you want with it…hell, you can re-sell the modified product, as long as you do not try to use it as currency.

    I made some copper pennies into a bit of scale mail once. That was…problematic.

  17. Ok so I’ve finally accessed decent interwebs and been able to view the video. Nice work. Very interesting!

    You mentioned that you had no luck lighting it with the lower temperature flame. If you hold a dull flame over it and make it bubble away on it’s own, let it sit for 10 minutes on it’s own. This seems to allow time for moisture (sulfuric acid?) to evaporate. The same moisture must evaporate alot quicker in that hotter flame. The dried mixture after sitting for 10 minutes is very flammable even with a low heat flame from a cigarette lighter.

    I’m wondering then… when I have been just igniting a mixture of sulphur and zinc powders(see my comment above for details), have I been making zinc sulfide or zinc sulfate?

    Also, the green pixel! It’s vanished! We want our green pixel back.

  18. @zzzomb – “I’m wondering then… when I have been just igniting a mixture of sulphur and zinc powders(see my comment above for details), have I been making zinc sulfide or zinc sulfate?”

    You are in fact producing ZnS (Zinc sulfide) and happens to be one of the easier equations to balance: Zn + S –> ZnS

    This mixture also happens to be one of the most popular amateur solid rocket fuel that has been in use since the late 50’s. It’s most commonly known as “micrograin” solid rocket propellant.

    Optimised ratio: approx 67% Zn and 33% S by weight

    The ZnS produced upon combustion can be easily ground into a smooth, fine and homogeneous powder.

    ~I love chemicals!

  19. You little champion Toddzilla. Thanks bro.

    “With one particular mixture I got a noticeable very red glow. This mixture had a bit more zinc than it had sulphur, maybe 25% more.”
    “Optimised ratio: approx 67% Zn and 33% S by weight”
    Makes perfect sense now. Now to work on the ratio of the copper and the manganese.

  20. Very interesting. But a violet laser will make even simple baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) phosphoresce green for a brief time.

    Test it with an incandescent flashlight like we use to do as kids when they started putting ZnS:Cu in all the toys.

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