Despicable Science Part 2: Glow-in-the-Dark Minions

What do the minions from Despicable Me, light sticks, and tonic water have in common? Chemiluminescence!

Lee Falin, PhD
3-minute read
Episode #65

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at some of the possible science behind the freeze ray in the movie Despicable Me. This week we'll continue our exploits with Gru and his minions, by looking at the curious ability that minions have to glow in the dark.;


In case you haven't yet seen the movie, let me set the scene: As Gru is sneaking out of Vector's lair, he gets caught in the dark. Fortunately, his trusty minions are there with him. Grabbing the nearest minion, he gives it a squeeze and a quick shake, and suddenly the minion is glowing in the dark just like a light stick.

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

A normal light stick is basically a plastic tube filled with a two chemicals plus a florescent dye. One of the chemicals is inside of a glass tube within the light stick, keeping the chemicals separate until you're ready to use it. By bending the light stick, you break the glass tube containing the second chemical, which allows the two chemicals to mix together. These two chemicals react together, releasing energy. That energy is then absorbed by the fluorescent dye. 

If you think I'm being deliberatley vague about the identify of these two chemicals, you're right...


Please note that archive episodes of this podcast may include references to Ask Science. Rights of Albert Einstein are used with permission of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Represented exclusively by Greenlight.

About the Author

Lee Falin, PhD

Dr. Lee Falin earned a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Illinois, then went on to obtain a Ph.D. in Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology from Virginia Tech.