Chemiluminescence in glow sticks works by
fluorescence. I suspect it may have different
mechanisms in living systems, but fluorescence is
still common. The principle of fluorescence is
that the chemicals emit light at a particular
wavelength as a result of the formation of a
particular chemical bond, which controls the
energy (and thus the wavelength) of the light.
The reaction does not otherwise produce a great
deal of heat; most of the energy released is in
the form of light. Different chemicals have
different energy levels, and thus different
wavelengths and reaction times, and thus lifespan.
Biological systems have a similar range of options
when producing light.
The chemicals that make up some glow sticks are
toxic, which means that they can be bad for the
environment if they escape the plastic casing of
the glow stick.
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