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05/04/20 What is the Chemistry behind Bioluminescent Waves in San Diego?

Updated: May 28, 2020

Check out the bioluminescence in the waves of several beaches in San Diego. It makes them glow and it looks super cool. The glowing blue waves are created when microorganisms called phytoplankton crash in the tide, chemically reacting and causing bioluminescence. What is the chemistry behind the bioluminescence? Chemically, the bioluminescence is due to an oxygenation reaction(oxygen reacts with luciferins which produces energy in the form of light). Some luciferins can produce more than one color. Here is a chart that shows which luciferins produce each color.

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