Phil Mogel, for Kimberly-Clark, said: "We are aware of triboluminescence. No one understands where it comes form.
Triboluminescence is not common in nappies but it has been suggested some manufacturers could market the device as an aid to finding babies in the dark.
Based in Los Angeles, Calif., Tribogenics is an innovator of triboluminescence
based X-ray technology for industrial, medical, and scientific industries.
They tested the crystals for triboluminescence by mashing them with a glass rod in a test tube and watching carefully for light.
Moreover, those symmetrical crystals lost their triboluminescence once they were purified.
Those local structural asymmetries could explain why materials that are symmetrical overall can still exhibit triboluminescence, Sweeting says.
Aside from black-body radiation, they listed a number of other possible sources of illumination: crystalloluminescence, produced when chemicals crystallize; sonoluminescence, powered by the sound of bubbles collapsing; triboluminescence
, created when rock crystals crack; and Cerenkov radiation and scintillation, both caused by the radioactive decay of elements in the vent water.
To physicists it's just one of the more prosaic examples of triboluminescence (SN: 6/6/87, p.360) -- light emitted by the friction between two materials.
The triboluminescence of wintergreen candy has also been known for a long time, althoug various problems have limited its spectral characterization.
Although she investigated the unexplained candy-flashing phenomenon "just because it was there," Sweeting later realized her findings point toward "something that could be important"--what lies behind the triboluminescence of other perplexing crystals.
Intrigued by her observation, Sweeting explored the subject further and discovered that the phenomenon, known as triboluminescence, was not well understood although it had been studied for centuries.
This result suggests a general theory of triboluminescence based on the way electrical charge is separated when crystalline compounds are fractured.