Glow-in-the-Dark JELL-O Science Project

By Tony Myles
Jell-O brand gelatin is owned by Kraft Foods, as of the date of publication.
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Jell-O gelatin comes in powder or solid form, and is typically used to create desserts, such as fruit molds, no-bake pies, flavored punch and whipped parfaits. The powder form can also be used to create glow-in-the-dark science projects that use additional elements, such as quinine in tonic water or phosphors in petroleum jelly, which are best revealed when placed under a black light.

Edible Project

The standard method of making Jell-O from its powder state involves heating tap water, mixing it with the powder, stirring in a cup of cold water and pouring the liquid into a glass pan, mold or bowl. By substituting tonic water for the tap water, you introduce the element of quinine, which enables the Jell-O to show up in the dark under a black light.

Drinkable Project

Jell-O powder can be used to make punch after it's mixed with boiled water and flavored with a large can of juice. One way to create a glow under the black light is to use tonic water instead of tap water. However, the quinine in the tonic water will add a bitter flavor to the punch. Experiment with different sweeteners, such as lemon concentrate, sugar or soda, to eliminate the bitter taste.

Handprint Project

Petroleum jelly contains phosphors that absorb radiation and emit it as visible light. If you dip your hand into it and then into Jell-O powder, you can create hand prints on paper or another solid object that shows up under a black light. The random granules of the Jell-O will create patterns that reflect the light back in a different intensity than the petroleum jelly.

Measuring Quantam Yield

The experiments already mentioned will result in a bright blue glow that has a measurable optical effect. Quinine and phosphors emit photons that create a fluorescent quantum yield, which is the measurement of how efficiently absorbed light creates a glow under an ultraviolet light. Experimenting with the amount of tonic water or petroleum jelly will change the intensity of the emissions, and can be mathematically measured by determining the number of photons emitted to the number of photons absorbed.

About the Author

Tony Myles is a pastor and national speaker on youth culture. He has been writing professionally since 2000, has a weekly health and fitness newspaper column in the Cleveland suburbs, reviews for "YouthWorker Journal" and was a featured reporter for the "Kalamazoo Gazette." He holds a Master of Business Administration in adolescent development from Indiana Wesleyan University.