Luminol

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  • Luminol (C8H7N3O2) is a versatile chemical that exhibits chemiluminescence, with a striking blue glow, when mixed with an appropriate oxidizing agent. It is a white to slightly yellow crystalline solid that is soluble in most polar organic solvents, but insoluble in water.
  • Luminol is used by forensic investigators to detect trace amounts of blood left at crime scenes as it reacts with iron found in hemoglobin. It is used by biologists in cellular assays for the detection of copper, iron, and cyanides, in addition to the detection of specific proteins by Western Blot.
  • For analysis of an area, luminol can be sprayed evenly across the area, and trace amounts of an activating oxidant will cause the luminol to emit a blue glow that can be seen in a darkened room.
  • Luminol may be synthesized by a reverse phosphorescence 2-step process. It begins from 3-nitrophthalic acid.[2][3] First, hydrazine (N2H4) is heated with the 3-nitrophthalic acid in a high-boiling solvent such as triethylene glycol.
  • A condensation reaction occurs, with loss of water, forming 3-nitrophthalhydrazide. Reduction of the nitro group to an amino group with sodium dithionite (Na2S2O4) produces luminol. The usage of this chemical is based on the fact that everything leaves some sort of trace behind. Whenever blood is spilled, its myriad components can cling to the surface for years.
  • Although the visible stain left behind can be cleaned, there are several constituents that cannot be removed without a concentrated effort using heavy duty cleaning agents. Some of the most impressive and aesthetically pleasing chemical reactions known are those that result in the phenomenon of chemiluminescence.
  • While exothermic reactions usually release energy in the form of heat, some produce little or no heat and release their energy by the emission of light. These "glowing" reactions are generally oxidations, and a good example is the oxidation of 5-aminophthalhydrazide, or luminol, which produces a brilliant blue-green light.
  • Luminol is used by crime scene investigators to locate traces of blood, even if it has been cleaned or removed. The investigator prepares a solution of luminol and the activator and sprays it throughout the area under investigation. The iron present in any blood in the area catalyzes the chemical reaction that leads to the luminescence revealing the location of the blood.
  • Luminol chemiluminescence can also be triggered by a number of substances such as copper or copper-containing alloys, and certain bleaches and, as a result, if a crime scene is thoroughly cleaned with a bleach solution or horseradish, residual cleaner will cause the entire crime scene to produce the typical blue glow, effectively camouflaging any organic evidence, such as blood.

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