Smashing up mints in a garage doesn’t sound like much fun but this might just be the coolest thing you’ll see today. Shot at a fantastically high frame rate, this video from YouTube channel Smarter Every Day 2 shows how crushing a Wint-O-Green Lifesaver mint with a hammer can produce an optical phenomenon known as triboluminescence. This roughly means “friction-light” and refers to the light that is generated due to the breaking of chemical bonds when materials are smashed, rubbed, or scratched.
“It appears that triboluminescence is lightning on a very small scale,” Linda M. Sweeting, a chemist at Towson University, explains in a blog post. “When the sugar is cracked, electrical charge is separated, positive from negative, and when there is a big enough charge accumulation (electric field) the electrons jump through the air in the crack, colliding with and exciting the nitrogen molecules as they do.”
She points out that we are still not sure why all materials are not triboluminescent, as artificial sweeteners or transparent sugar candy appear not tot be, although it could be that our eyes just aren’t sensitive enough to see it.
As many kids will tell you, you can try this for yourself by eating these particular mints in the dark. However, your view doesn’t get much clearer than a super slow-motion YouTube video.