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Profile assignment

Luminol: Light emitted by molecules

The police use luminol in forensic investigations to find invisible traces of blood. When luminol comes into contact with an oxidant it emits light varying in colour from deep blue to cyan. This process is initiated by a catalyst, in this case the iron in haemoglobin. However, copper and cyanides also work as a catalyst, which is why luminol is also used for biochemical cell research.

Interesting research questions

  • How is luminol produced industrially and could you synthesize it yourself?
  • Luminol is dependent on an oxidant. Which oxidants are suitable and what is the influence of the concentration?
  • Without a catalyst luminol usually produces only very little light. What influence do different catalysts have on the light intensity?
  • As luminal also reacts to other catalysts, is it really an effective tool for forensic investigation?
When luminol decomposes it releases energy in the form of light.
When luminol decomposes it releases energy in the form of light.

Materials

  • Luminol, purchased by your school or synthesized by yourself
  • Various oxidants and/or catalysts
  • A light metre (much more reliable for measuring light intensity than the human eye)

Recommended reading

Click on ‘Ask a question’ If you would like to prepare luminol at the University for use in your own research.

Last modified:09 January 2018 2.29 p.m.
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