Paper Whites

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Learners observe different paper samples under ordinary room light and under a black light to learn some of the chemical differences between different types of paper. They also learn that some chemicals can be identified by how they appear under a black light. For instance, fibers that can be seen only under ultraviolet light can be added to paper for security reasons.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
Over $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 6 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per group of students)

  • One view box (see Materials Prep, Unit 6 Experiment “Light and Dark”)
  • Four 1-in. by 4-in. pieces of paper; each strip should be from a different type of paper that glows a different hue when placed under black light. (We used Boise Cascade Papers: Summit Form Bond (White Hi-Opaque), White 25% Cotton Laser, White Laser Opaque, and White OCR Laser Bond.)
  • String or nylon fishing line
  • Spray cleaner (such as Formula 409TM) (from general storage)
  • Tissues


  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
    • Vibration and Waves
      • Light and Optics
    • Structure and Properties of Matter

Informal Categories

  • Crime Science


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation