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14 mars 2011 1 14 /03 /mars /2011 08:23

A fluorescent lamp or fluorescent tube is a gas-discharge lamp that uses electricity to excite mercury vapor. The excited mercury atoms produce short-wave ultraviolet light that then causes a phosphor to fluoresce, producing visible light. A fluorescent lamp converts electrical power into useful light more efficiently than an incandescent lamp  SONY VAIO VGN-FW21E Battery .

Lower energy cost typically offsets the higher initial cost of the lamp. The lamp fixture is more costly because it requires a ballast to regulate the current through the lamp  SONY VAIO VGN-FW21J Battery .

While larger fluorescent lamps have been mostly used in commercial or institutional buildings, the compact fluorescent lamp is now available in the same popular sizes as incandescents and is used as an energy-saving alternative in homes  SONY VAIO VGN-FW21L Battery .

Physical discoveries

Fluorescence of certain rocks and other substances had been observed for hundreds of years before its nature was understood. By the middle of the 19th century, experimenters had observed a radiant glow emanating from partially evacuated glass vessels through which an electrical current passed  SONY VAIO VGN-FW21M Battery .

One of the first to explain it was the Irish scientist Sir George Stokes from the University of Cambridge, who named the phenomenon "fluorescence" after fluorite, a mineral many of whose samples fluoresce strongly due to impurities  SONY VAIO VGN-FW21Z Battery .

The explanation relied on the nature of electricity and light phenomena as developed by the British scientists Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell in the 1840s.

Little more was done with this phenomenon until 1856 when a German glassblower named Heinrich Geissler created a mercury vacuum pump that evacuated a glass tube to an extent not previously possible  SONY VAIO VGN-FW25T/B Battery .

When an electrical current passed through a Geissler tube, a strong green glow on the walls of the tube at the cathode end could be observed. Because it produced some beautiful light effects, the Geissler tube was a popular source of amusement. More important, however, was its contribution to scientific research SONY VAIO VGN-FW26T/B Battery .

One of the first scientists to experiment with a Geissler tube wasJulius Plücker who systematically described in 1858 the luminescent effects that occurred in a Geissler tube. He also made the important observation that the glow in the tube shifted position when in proximity to an electromagnetic field   Dell Latitude E6400 battery,10400mAh,11.1V .

Alexandre Edmond Becquerel observed in 1859 that certain substances gave off light when they were placed in a Geissler tube. He went on to apply thin coatings of luminescent materials to the surfaces of these tubes. Fluorescence occurred, but the tubes were very inefficient and had a short operating life  Dell Latitude E6400 battery,10400mAh,11.1V .

Inquiries that began with the Geissler tube continued as even better vacuums were produced. The most famous was the evacuated tube used for scientific research by William Crookes. That tube was evacuated by the highly effective mercury vacuum pump created by Hermann Sprengel  Dell Latitude E6500 battery,10400mAh,11.1V .

Research conducted by Crookes and others ultimately led to the discovery of the electron in 1897 by J. J. Thomson. But the Crookes tube, as it came to be known, produced little light because the vacuum in it was too good and thus lacked the trace amounts of gas that are needed for electrically stimulated luminescence  SONY VAIO VGN-FW27/B Battery .

[edit]Early discharge lamps

While Becquerel was primarily interested in conducting scientific research into fluorescence, Thomas Edison briefly pursued fluorescent lighting for its commercial potential  SONY VAIO VGN-FW27/W Battery .

He invented a fluorescent lamp in 1896 that used a coating of calcium tungstate as the fluorescing substance, excited by X-rays, but although it received a patent in 1907, it was not put into production. As with a few other attempts to use Geissler tubes for illumination, it had a short operating life  SONY VAIO VGN-FW31ZJ Battery ,

and given the success of the incandescent light, Edison had little reason to pursue an alternative means of electrical illumination. Nikola Tesla made similar experiments in the 1890s, devising high frequency powered fluorescent bulbs that gave a bright greenish light, but as with Edison's devices, no commercial success was achieved SONY VAIO VGN-FW27T/H Battery .

Although Edison lost interest in fluorescent lighting, one of his former employees was able to create a gas-based lamp that achieved a measure of commercial success. In 1895 Daniel McFarlan Mooredemonstrated lamps 2 to 3 meters (6.6 to 9.8 ft) in length that used carbon dioxide or nitrogen to emit white or pink light, respectively  SONY VAIO VGN-FW29/B Battery .

As with future fluorescent lamps, they were considerably more complicated than an incandescent bulb.

After years of work, Moore was able to extend the operating life of the lamps by inventing an electromagnetically controlled valve that maintained a constant gas pressure within the tube  SONY VAIO VGN-FW290JRB Battery .

Although Moore’s lamp was complicated, expensive to install, and required very high voltages, it was considerably more efficient than incandescent lamps, and it produced a more natural light than incandescent lamps. From 1904 onwards Moore’s lighting system was installed in a number of stores and offices  SONY VAIO VGN-FW290JTB Battery .

Its success contributed to General Electric’s motivation to improve the incandescent lamp, especially its filament. GE’s efforts came to fruition with the invention of a tungsten-based filament. The extended lifespan of incandescent bulbs negated one of the key advantages of Moore’s lamp, but GE purchased the relevant patents in 1912  SONY VAIO VGN-FW290JTH Battery .

These patents and the inventive efforts that supported them were to be of considerable value when the firm took up fluorescent lighting more than two decades later  SONY VAIO VGN-FW33G/E1 Battery .

At about the same time that Moore was developing his lighting system, another American was creating a means of illumination that also can be seen as a precursor to the modern fluorescent lamp. This was the mercury-vapor lamp, invented by Peter Cooper Hewitt and patented in 1901 (US 682692 )(Note: This patent number is universally misquoted as US889,692) SONY VAIO VGN-FW33G/W Battery .

Hewitt’s lamp luminesced when an electric current was passed through mercury vapor at a low pressure. Unlike Moore’s lamps, Hewitt's were manufactured in standardized sizes and operated at low voltages  SONY VAIO VGN-FW33GW Battery .

The mercury-vapor lamp was superior to the incandescent lamps of the time in terms of energy efficiency, but the blue-green light it produced limited its applications. It was, however, used for photography and some industrial processes  (Dell XPS M1210 Batteryhttp://www.hdd-shop.co.uk .

Mercury vapor lamps continued to be developed at a slow pace, especially in Europe, and by the early 1930s they received limited use for large-scale illumination. Some of them employed fluorescent coatings, but these were primarily used for color correction and not for enhanced light output  Dell Studio XPS 1640 Battery .

Mercury vapor lamps also anticipated the fluorescent lamp in their incorporation of a ballast to maintain a constant current.

Cooper-Hewitt had not been the first to use mercury vapor for illumination, as earlier efforts had been mounted by Way, Rapieff, Arons, and Bastian and Salisbury  Dell Vostro 1710 Battery .

Of particular importance was the mercury vapor lamp invented by Küch in Germany. This lamp used quartz in place of glass to allow higher operating temperatures, and hence greater efficiency. Although its light output relative to electrical consumption was better than other sources of light  Dell KM958 battery ,

the light it produced was similar to that of the Cooper-Hewitt lamp in that it lacked the red portion of the spectrum, making it unsuitable for ordinary lighting.

Neon lamps

The next step in gas-based lighting took advantage of the luminescent qualities of neon, an inert gas that had been discovered in 1898 by isolation from the atmosphere  Dell Studio 1555 battery .

Neon glowed a brilliant red when used in Geissler tubes.  By 1910, Georges Claude, a Frenchman who had developed a technology and a successful business for air liquefaction, was obtaining enough neon as a byproduct to support a neon lighting industry   Sony VGP-BPS13 battery .

While neon lighting was used around 1930 in France for general illumination, it was no more energy-efficient than conventional incandescent lighting. Neon tube lighting, which also includes the use of argon and mercury vapor as alternate gases, came to be used primarily for eye-catching signs and advertisements  Sony VGP-BPS13/B battery .

Neon lighting was relevant to the development of fluorescent lighting, however, as Claude’s improved electrode (patented in 1915) overcame "sputtering", a major source of electrode degradation. Sputtering occurred when ionized particles struck an electrode and tore off bits of metal  Sony VGP-BPS13/S battery .

Although Claude’s invention required electrodes with a lot of surface area, it showed that a major impediment to gas-based lighting could be overcome.

The development of the neon light also was significant for the last key element of the fluorescent lamp, its fluorescent coating Sony VGP-BPS13A/B battery .

In 1926 Jacques Risler received a French patent for the application of fluorescent coatings to neon light tubes. The main use of these lamps, which can be considered the first commercially successful fluorescents, was for advertising, not general illumination. This, however, was not the first use of fluorescent coatings  Sony VGP-BPS13B/B battery .

As has been noted above, Edison used calcium tungstate for his unsuccessful lamp. Other efforts had been mounted, but all were plagued by low efficiency and various technical problems. Of particular importance was the invention in 1927 of a low-voltage “metal vapor lamp” by Friedrich Meyer  Sony VGP-BPL9 battery ,

Hans-Joachim Spanner, and Edmund Germer, who were employees of a German firm in Berlin. A German patent was granted but the lamp never went into commercial production.

Commercialization of fluorescent lamps

All the major features of fluorescent lighting were in place at the end of the 1920s   Sony VGP-BPS13B/B battery .

Decades of invention and development had provided the key components of fluorescent lamps: economically manufactured glass tubing, inert gases for filling the tubes, electrical ballasts, long-lasting electrodes, mercury vapor as a source of luminescence  Sony VGP-BPL15 battery ,

effective means of producing a reliable electrical discharge, and fluorescent coatings that could be energized by ultraviolet light. At this point, intensive development was more important than basic research   Dell Inspiron E1505 battery .

In 1934, Arthur Compton, a renowned physicist and GE consultant, reported to the GE lamp department on successful experiments with fluorescent lighting at General Electric Co., Ltd. in Great Britain (unrelated to General Electric in the United States)   Dell Latitude E6400 battery .

Stimulated by this report, and with all of the key elements available, a team led by George E. Inman built a prototype fluorescent lamp in 1934 atGeneral Electric’s Nela Park (Ohio) engineering laboratory. This was not a trivial exercise; as noted by Arthur A HP Pavilion dv6000 Battery .

Bright, "A great deal of experimentation had to be done on lamp sizes and shapes, cathode construction, gas pressures of both argon and mercury vapor, colors of fluorescent powders, methods of attaching them to the inside of the tube, and other details of the lamp and its auxiliaries before the new device was ready for the public  HP Pavilion dv8000 battery ."

In addition to having engineers and technicians along with facilities for R&D work on fluorescent lamps, General Electric controlled what it regarded as the key patents covering fluorescent lighting, including the patents originally issued to Hewitt, Moore, and Küch

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More important than these was a patent covering an electrode that did not disintegrate at the gas pressures that ultimately were employed in fluorescent lamps. Albert W. Hull of GE’s Schenectady Research Laboratory filed for a patent on this invention in 1927, which was issued in 1931   HP PAVILION DV8000 Battery,  8800mAh, 10.8V .

While the Hull patent gave GE a basis for claiming legal rights over the fluorescent lamp, a few months after the lamp went into production the firm learned of a U.S. patent application that had been filed in 1927 for the aforementioned "metal vapor lamp" invented in Germany by Meyer, Spanner, and Germer  SONY VAIO VGN-FZ Battery .

The patent application indicated that the lamp had been created as a superior means of producing ultraviolet light, but the application also contained a few statements referring to fluorescent illumination  HP Pavilion DV6000 battery - 8800mAh .

Efforts to obtain a U.S. patent had met with numerous delays, but were it to be granted, the patent might have caused serious difficulties for GE. At first, GE sought to block the issuance of a patent by claiming that priority should go to one of their employeesHP Pavilion DV8000 battery - 7800mAh

, Leroy J. Buttolph, who according to their claim had invented a fluorescent lamp in 1919 and whose patent application was still pending. GE also had filed a patent application in 1936 in Inman’s name to cover the “improvements” wrought by his groupHP Pavilion DV6000 battery - 8800mAh .

In 1939 GE decided that the claim of Meyer, Spanner, and Germer had some merit, and that in any event a long interference procedure was not in their best interest. They therefore dropped the Buttolph claim and paid $180,000 to acquire the Meyer, et al. application, which at that point was owned by a firm known as Electrons, IncHP Pavilion DV8000 battery - 6600mAh .

The patent was duly awarded in December 1939. This patent, along with the Hull patent, put GE on what seemed to be firm legal ground, although it faced years of legal challenges from Sylvania Electric Products, Inc., which claimed infringement on patents that it held  SONY VAIO VGN-FZ Battery .

Even though the patent issue would not be completely resolved for many years, General Electric’s strength in manufacturing and marketing the bulb gave it a pre-eminent position in the emerging fluorescent light market   SONY VAIO VGN-FZ18 Battery .

Sales of "fluorescent lumiline lamps" commenced in 1938 when four different sizes of tubes were put on the market used in fixtures manufactured by three leading corporations, two based in New York City  SONY VAIO VGN-FZ21E Battery .

During the following year GE and Westinghouse publicized the new lights through exhibitions at the New York World’s Fair and the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco  SONY VAIO VGN-FW31J Battery - 5200mAh/7800mAh/10400mAh, 11.10V .

Fluorescent lighting systems spread rapidly during World War II as wartime manufacturing intensified lighting demand. By 1951 more light was produced in the United States by fluorescent lamps than by incandescent lamps

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Principles of operation

The fundamental means for conversion of electrical energy into radiant energy in a fluorescent lamp relies on inelastic scattering of electrons. An incident electron collides with an atom in the gas      SONY VAIO VGN-FW21E Battery .

If the free electron has enough kinetic energy, it transfers energy to the atom's outer electron, causing that electron to temporarily jump up to a higher energy level. The collision is 'inelastic' because a loss of energy occurs  SONY VAIO VGN-NR11S/S Battery .

This higher energy state is unstable, and the atom will emit an ultraviolet photon as the atom's electron reverts to a lower, more stable, energy level. Most of the photons that are released from the mercury atoms have wavelengths in the ultraviolet (UV) region of the spectrum, predominantly at wavelengths of 253.7 nm and 185 nm  SONY VAIO VGN-NR11M/S Battery .

These are not visible to the human eye, so they must be converted into visible light. This is done by making use of fluorescence. Ultraviolet photons are absorbed by electrons in the atoms of the lamp's interior fluorescent coating, causing a similar energy jump, then drop, with emission of a further photon  SONY VAIO VGN-NR11Z/S Battery .

The photon that is emitted from this second interaction has a lower energy than the one that caused it. The chemicals that make up the phosphor are chosen so that these emitted photons are at wavelengths visible to the human eye  SONY VAIO VGN-NR11Z/T Battery .

The difference in energy between the absorbed ultra-violet photon and the emitted visible light photon goes toward heating up the phosphor coating.

When the light is turned on, the electric power heats up the cathode enough for it to emit electrons  Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21E Battery .

These electrons collide with and ionize noble gas atoms inside the bulb surrounding the filament to form a plasma by the process of impact ionization. As a result of avalanche ionization, the conductivity of the ionized gas rapidly rises, allowing higher currents to flow through the lamp  Sony VAIO VGN-FW21E Battery .


A fluorescent lamp tube is filled with a gas containing low pressure mercury vapor and argon, xenon, neon, or krypton. The pressure inside the lamp is around 0.3% of atmospheric pressure    Sony VAIO VGN-NR11S/S Battery .

The inner surface of the bulb is coated with a fluorescent (and often slightly phosphorescent) coating made of varying blends of metallic andrare-earth phosphor salts. The bulb's electrodes are typically made of coiled tungsten and usually referred to as cathodes because of their prime function of emitting electrons  Sony VAIO VGN-NR11Z/S Battery .

For this, they are coated with a mixture of barium, strontium and calcium oxides chosen to have a low thermionic emission temperature.

Fluorescent lamp tubes are typically straight and range in length from about 100 millimeters (3.9 in) for miniature lamps, to 2.43 meters (8.0 ft) for high-output lamps  Sony VAIO VGN-NR11M/S Battery .

Some lamps have the tube bent into a circle, used for table lamps or other places where a more compact light source is desired. Larger U-shaped lamps are used to provide the same amount of light in a more compact area, and are used for special architectural purposes   Sony VAIO VGN-NR11Z/T Battery .

Compact fluorescent lamps have several small-diameter tubes joined in a bundle of two, four, or six, or a small diameter tube coiled into a spiral, to provide a high amount of light output in little volume.

Light-emitting phosphors are applied as a paint-like coating to the inside of the tube   SONY VAIO VGN-FZ180E Battery .

The organic solvents are allowed to evaporate, then the tube is heated to nearly the melting point of glass to drive off remaining organic compounds and fuse the coating to the lamp tube. Careful control of the grain size of the suspended phosphors is necessarySONY VAIO VGN-FZ220E Battery .;

large grains, 35 micrometers or larger, lead to weak grainy coatings, whereas too many small particles 1 or 2 micrometers or smaller leads to poor light maintenance and efficiency. Most phosphors perform best with a particle size around 10 micrometers.  SONY VAIO VGN-FZ340E Battery

The coating must be thick enough to capture all the ultraviolet light produced by the mercury arc, but not so thick that the phosphor coating absorbs too much visible light. The first phosphors were synthetic versions of naturally occurring fluorescent minerals, with small amounts of metals added as activators  SONY VAIO VGN-FZ430E Battery .

Later other compounds were discovered, allowing differing colors of lamps to be made.

Electrical aspects of operation

Fluorescent lamps are negative differential resistance devices, so as more current flows through them, the electrical resistance of the fluorescent lamp drops, allowing even more current to flow  SONY VAIO VGN-FZ460E Battery .

Connected directly to a constant-voltage power supply, a fluorescent lamp would rapidly self-destruct due to the uncontrolled current flow. To prevent this, fluorescent lamps must use an auxiliary device, a ballast, to regulate the current flow through the tubeSONY VAIO VGN-FZ480E Battery .

The terminal voltage across an operating lamp varies depending on the arc current, tube diameter, temperature, and fill gas. A fixed part of the voltage drop is due to the electrodes. A general lighting service T12 48 inch (1200 mm) lamp operates at 430 mA, with 100 volts drop   SONY VAIO VGN-FZ4000 Battery .

High output lamps operate at 800 mA, and some types operate up to 1500 mA. The power level varies from 10 watts per foot (33 watts per meter) to 25 watts per foot (82 watts per meter) of tube length for T12 lamps   SONY VAIO VGN-FZ31E Battery .

The simplest ballast for alternating current use is an inductor placed in series, consisting of a winding on a laminated magnetic core. The inductance of this winding limits the flow of AC current. This type is still used, for example, in 120 volt operated desk lamps using relatively short lamps. Ballasts are rated for the size of lamp and power frequency  SONY VAIO VGN-FZ31B Battery .

Where the mains voltage is insufficient to start long fluorescent lamps, the ballast is often a step-up autotransformer with substantial leakage inductance (so as to limit the current flow). Either form of inductive ballast may also include a capacitor for power factor correction  SONY VAIO VGN-FZ31J Battery .

Many different circuits have been used to operate fluorescent lamps. The choice of circuit is based on mains voltage, tube length, initial cost, long term cost, instant versus non-instant starting, temperature ranges and parts availability, etc  SONY VAIO VGN-FZ31M Battery .

Fluorescent lamps can run directly from a DC supply of sufficient voltage to strike an arc. The ballast must be resistive, and would consume about as much power as the lamp. When operated from DC, the starting switch is often arranged to reverse the polarity of the supply to the lamp each time it is started  SONY VAIO VGN-FZ31Z Battery ;

otherwise, the mercury accumulates at one end of the tube. Fluorescent lamps are (almost) never operated directly from DC for those reasons. Instead, aninverter converts the DC into AC and provides the current-limiting function as described below for electronic ballasts  SONY VAIO VGN-FZ38M Battery .

Effect of temperature

The light output and performance of fluorescent lamps is critically affected by the temperature of the bulb wall and its effect on the partial pressure of mercury vapor within the lamp  SONY VGP-BPS8 Battery .

Each lamp contains a small amount of mercury, which must vaporize to support the lamp current and generate light. At low temperatures the mercury is in the form of dispersed liquid droplets. As the lamp warms, more of the mercury is in vapor form. At higher temperatures, self-absorption in the vapor reduces the yield of UV and visible light  SONY VGP-BPS13/S Battery .

Since mercury condenses at the coolest spot in the lamp, careful design is required to maintain that spot at the optimum temperature, around 40 °C.

By using an amalgam with some other metal, the vapor pressure is reduced and the optimum temperature range extended upwardSONY VGP-BPS13A/B Battery ;

however, the bulb wall "cold spot" temperature must still be controlled to prevent migration of the mercury out of the amalgam and condensing on the cold spot. Fluorescent lamps intended for higher output will have structural features such as a deformed tube or internal heat-sinks to control cold spot temperature and mercury distribution  SONY VGP-BPS13B/B Battery .

Heavily loaded small lamps, such as compact fluorescent lamps, also include heat-sink areas in the tube to maintain mercury vapor pressure at the optimum value  SONY VGP-BPS13A/S Battery .


The efficiency of fluorescent lighting owes much to the fact that low pressure mercury discharges emit about 65% of their total light in the 254 nm line (another 10–20% of the light is emitted in the 185 nm line)  SONY VGP-BPS13AS Battery .

The UV light is absorbed by the bulb's fluorescent coating, which re-radiates the energy at longer wavelengths to emit visible light. The blend of phosphors controls the color of the light, and along with the bulb's glass prevents the harmful UV light from escapingDell Inspiron 1320n Battery .

Only a fraction of the electrical energy input into a lamp gets turned into useful light. The ballast dissipates some heat; electronic ballasts may be around 90% efficient. A fixed voltage drop occurs at the electrodes. Some of the energy in the mercury vapor column is also dissipated, but about 85% is turned into visible and ultraviolet light  Dell Inspiron 1464 Battery .

Not all the UV energy on the phosphor gets converted into visible light. In a modern lamp, for every 100 incident photons of UV impacting the phosphor, only 86 visible light photons are emitted (a quantum efficiency of 86%)  Dell Inspiron 1564 Battery .

The largest single loss in modern lamps is due to the lower energy of each photon of visible light, compared to the energy of the UV photons that generated them. Incident photons have an energy of 5.5 electron volts but produce visible light photons with energy around 2.5 electron volts, so only 45% of the UV energy is used   Dell Inspiron 1764 Battery .

If a so-called "two-photon" phosphor could be developed, this would improve the efficiency but much research has not yet found such a system  Dell Studio 1450 Battery .

Cold cathode lamps

Most fluorescent lamps use electrodes that operate in thermionic emission mode, meaning they are operated at a high enough temperature for the chosen material (normally a special coating) to liberate electrons across to the gas-fill by heat  Dell Studio 1457 Battery .

However, there are also tubes that operate in cold cathode mode, whereby electrons are liberated only by the level of potential difference provided. This does not mean the electrodes are cold (and indeed, they can be very hot), but it does mean they are operating below their thermionic emission temperature  Dell Latitude D610 Battery .

Because cold cathode lamps have no thermionic emission coating to wear out they can have much longer lives than is commonly available with thermionic emission tubes. This quality makes them desirable for maintenance-free long-life applications (such as LCD backlight displays)  Toshiba NB100 Battery .

Sputtering of the electrode may still occur, but electrodes can be shaped (e.g. into an internal cylinder) to capture most of the sputtered material so it is not lost from the electrode.

Cold cathode lamps are generally less efficient than thermionic emission lamps because the cathode fall voltage is much higherToshiba Satellite M65 battery .

The increased fall voltage results in more power dissipation at tube ends, which does not contribute to light output. However, this is less significant with longer tubes. The increased power dissipation at tube ends also usually means cold cathode tubes have to be run at a lower loading than their thermionic emission equivalents  Toshiba Satellite M60 battery .

Given the higher tube voltage required anyway, these tubes can easily be made long, and even run as series strings. They are better suited for bending into special shapes for lettering and signage, and can also be instantly switched on or off  Dell Latitude D830 Battery .


The mercury atoms in the fluorescent tube must be ionized before the arc can "strike" within the tube. For small lamps, it does not take much voltage to strike the arc and starting the lamp presents no problem, but larger tubes require a substantial voltage (in the range of a thousand volts)  Dell Latitude D620 Battery .


This technique uses a combination filament/cathode at each end of the lamp in conjunction with a mechanical or automatic switch (see circuit diagram to the right) that initially connect the filaments in series with the ballast and thereby preheat the filaments prior to striking the arc  Dell Inspiron Mini 10 Battery .

Note that in North America, this is referred to as Preheat. Elsewhere this is referred to as Switchstart.

These systems are standard equipment in 200–240 V countries (and for 100–120 V lamps up to about 30 watts), and generally use a glow starter   Sony VGN-FW11S Battery .

Before the 1960s, four-pin thermal starters and manual switches were also used. Electronic starters are also sometimes used with these electromagnetic ballast lamp fittings  Sony VGN-FW11M Battery .

The automatic glow starter shown in the photograph to the left consists of a small gas-discharge tube, containing neon and/or argon and fitted with a bi-metallic electrode. The special bi-metallic electrode is the key to the automatic starting mechanism Sony VGN-FW139E/H battery .

When power is first applied to the lamp circuit, a glow discharge will appear over the electrodes of the starter. This glow discharge will heat the gas in the starter and cause the bi-metallic electrode to bend towards the other electrode  Dell Latitude E5400 Battery .

When the electrodes touch, the two filaments of the fluorescent lamp and the ballast will effectively be switched in series to the supply voltage. This causes the filaments to glow and emit electrons into the gas column by thermionic emission. In the starter's tube, the touching electrodes have stopped the glow discharge, causing the gas to cool down again Dell Latitude E4200 Battery .

The bi-metallic electrode also cools down and starts to move back. When the electrodes separate, the inductive kick from the ballast provides the high voltage to start the lamp. The starter additionally has a capacitor wired in parallel to its gas-discharge tube, in order to prolong the electrode life  Dell Inspiron 300M Battery .

Once the tube is struck, the impinging main discharge then keeps the cathode hot, permitting continued emission without the need for the starter to close. The starter does not close again because the voltage across the lit tube is insufficient to start a glow discharge in the starter  Dell Vostro A840 Battery .

Tube strike is reliable in these systems, but glow starters will often cycle a few times before allowing the tube to stay lit, which causes undesirable flashing during starting. (The older thermal starters behaved better in this respect.)

If the tube fails to strike, or strikes but then extinguishes, the starting sequence is repeated  Dell Studio 1737 battery .

With automated starters such as glow starters, a failing tube will cycle endlessly, flashing as the lamp quickly goes out because emission is insufficient to keep the lamp current high enough to keep the glow starter open. This causes flickering, and runs the ballast at above design temperature  Dell Inspiron E1505 battery .

Some more advanced starters time out in this situation, and do not attempt repeated starts until power is reset. Some older systems used a thermal over-current trip to detect repeated starting attempts. These require manual reset.

Electronic starters use a more complex method to preheat the cathodes of a fluorescent lamp  Dell RM791 battery .

They commonly use a specially designed semiconductor switch. They are programmed with a predefined preheat time to ensure that the cathodes are fully heated and reduce the amount of sputtered emission mix to prolong the life of the lamp  Dell XPS M1530 battery .

Electronic starters contain a series of capacitors that are capable of producing a high voltage pulse of electricity across the lamp to ensure that it strikes correctly. Electronic starters only attempt to start a lamp for a short time when power is initially applied and will not repeatedly attempt to restrike a lamp that is dead and cannot sustain an arc  Dell XPS M2010 battery .

This eliminates the re-striking of a lamp and the cycle of flashing that a failing lamp installed with a glow starter can produce. Electronic starters have also been developed that are capable of striking the fluorescent tube within 0.3 seconds, which gives a virtually instant start  Acer Aspire One battery .

[edit]Instant start

In some cases, a high voltage is applied directly: instant start fluorescent tubes simply use a high enough voltage to break down the gas and mercury column and thereby start arc conduction  Toshiba Satellite P10 Battery .

These tubes can be identified by a single pin at each end of the tube. The lamp holders have a "disconnect" socket at the low-voltage end to isolate the ballast and prevent electric shock. Low-cost lighting fixtures with an integrated electronic ballast use instant start on preheat lamps, even if it reduces the lamp lifespan SONY VGN-FZ210CE Battery .

[edit]Rapid start

Newer rapid start ballast designs provide filament power windings within the ballast; these rapidly and continuously warm the filaments/cathodes using low-voltage AC  Dell Precision M70 Battery .

No inductive voltage spike is produced for starting, so the lamps must be mounted near a grounded (earthed) reflector to allow the glow discharge to propagate through the tube and initiate the arc discharge. In some lamps a "starting aid" strip of grounded metal is attached to the outside of the lamp glass  Toshiba Satellite L305 Battery .


Quick-start ballasts use a small auto-transformer to heat the filaments when power is first applied. When an arc strikes, the filament heating power is reduced and the tube will start within half a second   Toshiba Satellite T4900 Battery .

The auto-transformer is either combined with the ballast or may be a separate unit. Tubes need to be mounted near an earthed metal reflector in order for them to strike. Quick-start ballasts were more common in commercial installations because of lower maintenance as no starter switches need to be replaced   Toshiba PA3399U-2BRS battery .

They are also used in domestic installations due to the virtually instant start. Quick-start ballasts are only used on 240 V circuits and are designed for use with the older, less-efficient T12 tubes, T8 retrofits will not start when used with quick-start ballasts  Toshiba Satellite A200 Battery .

Semi-resonant start

Semi-resonant start was invented by Thorn Lighting for use with T12 fluorescent tubes. This method uses a double wound transformer and a capacitor     Toshiba Satellite 1200 Battery .

With no arc current, the transformer and capacitor ring at mains frequency and generate about twice mains voltage across the tube, and a small electrode heating current. This tube voltage is too low to strike the arc with cold electrodes, but as the electrodes heat up to thermionic emission temperature       Toshiba Satellite M300 Battery ,

the tube striking voltage reduces below that of the ringing voltage, and the arc strikes. As the electrodes heat, the lamp slowly, over 3–5 seconds, reaches full brightness. As the arc current increases and tube voltage drops, the circuit provides current limiting SONY VGP-BPS13A/Q Battery .

Semi-resonant start was mainly used in commercial installations because of their higher initial cost. There are no starter switches to be replaced and cathode damage is reduced during starting. Due to the high open circuit tube voltage, this starting method was particularly good for starting tubes in cold locations  SONY VGP-BPS13A/Q Battery .

Additionally, the circuit power factor is almost 1.0, and no additional power factor correction is needed in the lighting installation. As the design requires that twice the mains voltage must be lower than the cold-cathode striking voltage (or the tubes would erroneously instant-start), this design can only be used with 5 ft and longer tubes on 240 V mains  SONY VGP-BPS13B/Q Battery .

Semi-resonant start fixtures are generally incompatible with energy saving T8 retrofit tubes, because such tubes have a higher starting voltage than T12 lamps and may not start reliably,especially in low temperatures. Recent proposals in some countries to phase out T12 tubes will reduce the application of this starting method SONY VGP-BPS13B/Q Battery .

Electronic ballasts

Electronic ballasts employ transistors to alter mains voltage frequency into high-frequency AC while also regulating the current flow in the lamp  SONY VGP-BPS13/Q Battery .

These ballasts take advantage of the higher efficacy of lamps operated with higher-frequency current. Efficacy of a fluorescent lamp rises by almost 10% at a frequency of 10 kHz, compared to efficacy at normal power frequency  SONY VGP-BPS13/Q Battery .

When the AC period is shorter than the relaxation time to de-ionize mercury atoms in the discharge column, the discharge stays closer to optimum operating condition. Electronic ballasts typically work in rapid start or instant start mode  SONY VGP-BPS21A/B Battery .

Electronic ballasts are commonly supplied with AC power, which is internally converted to DC and then back to a variable frequency AC waveform. Depending upon the capacitance and the quality of constant-current pulse-width-modulation, this can largely eliminate modulation at 100 or 120 Hz  SONY VGP-BPS21/S Battery .

Low cost ballasts mostly contain only a simple oscillator and series resonant LC circuit. When turned on, the oscillator starts, and the LC circuit charges. After a short time the voltage across the lamp reaches about 1 kV and the lamp ignites. The process is too fast to preheat the cathodes, so the lamp instant-starts in cold cathode mode  SONY VGP-BPS21B Battery .

The cathode filaments are still used for protection of the ballast from overheating if the lamp does not ignite. A few manufacturers use positive temperature coefficient (PTC) thermistors to disable instant starting and give some time to preheat the filaments.

More complex electronic ballasts use programmed start  SONY VGP-BPS21A Battery .

The output AC frequency is started above the resonance frequency of the output circuit of the ballast; and after the filaments are heated, the frequency is rapidly decreased. If the frequency approaches the resonant frequency of the ballast, the output voltage will increase so much that the lamp will ignite  SONY VGP-BPS21 Battery .

If the lamp does not ignite, an electronic circuit stops the operation of the ballast.

Many electronic ballasts are controlled by a microcontroller or similar, and these are sometimes called digital ballasts. Digital ballasts can apply quite complex logic to lamp starting and operation  Sony VGP-BPS21A/B Battery .

This enables functions such as testing for broken electrodes and missing tubes before attempting to start, auto detect tube replacement, and auto detection of tube type, such that a single ballast can be used with several different tubes, even those that operate at different arc currents, etc   Sony VGP-BPS21/S Battery .

Once such fine grained control over the starting and arc current is achievable, features such as dimming, and having the ballast maintain a constant light level against changing sunlight contribution are all easily included in the embedded microcontroller software, and can be found in various manufacturers' products  Sony VGP-BPS21A Battery .

Since introduction in the 1990s, high frequency ballasts have been used in general lighting fixtures with either rapid start or pre-heat lamps. These ballasts convert the incoming power to an output frequency in excess of 20 kHz. This increases lamp efficiency  Sony VGP-BPS21 Battery .

These are used in several applications, including new generation tanning lamp systems, whereby a 100 watt lamp (e.g., F71T12BP) can be lit using 65 to 70 watts of actual power while obtaining the same luminous flux (measured in lumens) as magnetic ballasts  Sony Vaio PCG-5G2L Battery .

These ballasts operate with voltages that can be almost 600 volts, requiring some consideration in housing design, and can cause a minor limitation in the length of the wire leads from the ballast to the lamp ends.

End of life

The end of life failure mode for fluorescent lamps varies depending how they are used and their control gear type  Sony Vaio PCG-5G3L Battery .

Normal tube failure modes are as follows       Sony Vaio PCG-5J1L Battery :

Emission mix

The "emission mix" on the tube filaments/cathodes is necessary to enable electrons to pass into the gas via thermionic emission at the tube operating voltages used        Sony Vaio PCG-5K2L Battery .

The mix is slowly sputtered off by bombardment with electrons and mercury ions during operation, but a larger amount is sputtered off each time the tube is started with cold cathodes. The method of starting the lamp has a significant impact on this  Sony Vaio PCG-5J2L Battery .

Lamps operated for typically less than 3 hours each switch-on will normally run out of the emission mix before other parts of the lamp fail. The sputtered emission mix forms the dark marks at the tube ends seen in old tubes. When all the emission mix is gone, the cathode cannot pass sufficient electrons into the gas fill to maintain the discharge at the designed tube operating voltage Sony Vaio PCG-5K1L Battery .

Ideally, the control gear should shut down the tube when this happens. However, some control gear will provide sufficient increased voltage to continue operating the tube in cold cathode mode, which will cause overheating of the tube end and rapid disintegration of the electrodes (filament goes open-circuit) and filament support wires until they are completely gone or the glass cracks Sony Vaio PCG-6S2L Battery ,

wrecking the low pressure gas fill and stopping the gas discharge.

Ballast electronics

This may occur in compact fluorescent lamps with integral electrical ballasts or in linear lamps. Ballast electronics failure is a somewhat random process that follows the standard failure profile for any electronic device  Sony Vaio PCG-6S3L Battery .

There is an initial small peak of early failures, followed by a drop and steady increase over lamp life. Life of electronics is heavily dependent on operating temperature—it typically halves for each 10 °C temperature rise. The quoted average life of a lamp is usually at 25 °C ambient (this may vary by country)  Sony Vaio PCG-6V1L Battery .

The average life of the electronics at this temperature is normally greater than this, so at this temperature, not many lamps will fail due to failure of the electronics. In some fittings, the ambient temperature could be well above this, in which case failure of the electronics may become the predominant failure mechanism  Sony Vaio PCG-6W1L Battery .

Similarly, running a compact fluorescent lamp base-up will result in hotter electronics, which can cause shorter average life (particularly with higher power rated ones). Electronic ballasts should be designed to shut down the tube when the emission mix runs out as described above  Sony Vaio PCG-6W2L Battery .

In the case of integral electronic ballasts, since they never have to work again, this is sometimes done by having them deliberately burn out some component to permanently cease operation.

In most CFLs the filaments are connected in series, with a small capacitor between them   Sony Vaio PCG-6W3L Battery .

The discharge, once lit, is in parallel to the capacitor and presents a lower-resistance path, effectively shorting the capacitor out. One of the most common failure modes of cheap lamps is caused by underrating this capacitor (using lower-voltage, lower-cost part), which is very stressed during operation, leading to its premature failure  Sony Vaio PCG-7111L Battery .


The phosphor drops off in efficiency during use. By around 25,000 operating hours, it will typically be half the brightness of a new lamp (although some manufacturers claim much longer half-lives for their lamps)  Sony Vaio PCG-7112L Battery .

Lamps that do not suffer failures of the emission mix or integral ballast electronics will eventually develop this failure mode. They still work, but have become dim and inefficient. The process is slow, and often only becomes obvious when a new lamp is operating next to an old one  Sony Vaio PCG-7113L Battery .

Loss of mercury

Like in all mercury-based gas-filled tubes, mercury is slowly absorbed into glass, phosphor, and tube electrodes throughout the lamp life, where it can no longer function. Newer lamps now have just enough mercury to last the expected life of the lamp Sony Vaio PCG-7133L Battery .

Loss of mercury will take over from failure of the phosphor in some lamps. The failure symptoms are similar, except loss of mercury initially causes an extended run-up time to full light output, and finally causes the lamp to glow a dim pink when the mercury runs out and the argon base gas takes over as the primary discharge  Sony Vaio PCG-7Z2L Battery .

Subjecting the tube to asymmetric waveforms, where the total current flow through the tube does not cancel out and the tube effectively operates under a DC bias, causes asymmetric distribution of mercury ions along the tube due to cataphoresis  Sony Vaio PCG-8Y1L Battery .

The localized depletion of mercury vapor pressure manifests as pink luminescence of the base gas in the vicinity of one of the electrodes, and the operating lifetime of the lamp may be dramatically shortened. This can be an issue with some poorly designed inverters   Sony Vaio PCG-8Y2L Battery .

The same effect can be observed with new tubes. Mercury is present in the form of an amalgam and takes some time to be liberated in sufficient amount. New lamps may in

itially glow pink for several seconds after startup. This period is minimized after about 100 hours of operation  Sony Vaio PCG-8Z1L Battery .

Burned filaments

The filaments can burn at the end of the lamp's lifetime, opening the circuit and losing the capability to heat up. Both filaments lose function as they are connected in series, with just a simple switch start circuit a broken filament will render the lamp completely useless   Sony Vaio PCG-8Z2L Battery .

Filaments rarely burn or fail open circuit unless the filament becomes depleted of emitter and the control gear is able to supply a high enough voltage across the tube to operate it in cold cathode mode. Some digital electronic ballasts are capable of detecting broken filaments and can still strike an arc with one or both filaments broken providing there is still sufficient emitter SONY VAIO VGN-FW31J Battery .

A broken filament in a bulb attached to a magnetic ballast often causes both bulbs to burn out or flicker.

Phosphors and the spectrum of emitted light

The spectrum of light emitted from a fluorescent lamp is the combination of light directly emitted by the mercury vapor, and light emitted by the phosphorescent coating   SONY VAIO VGN-FW31E Battery .

The spectral lines from the mercury emission and the phosphorescence effect give a combined spectral distribution of light that is different from those produced by incandescent sources. The relative intensity of light emitted in each narrow band of wavelengths over the visible spectrum is in different proportions compared to that of an incandescent source  SONY VAIO VGN-FW31B Battery .

Colored objects are perceived differently under light sources with differing spectral distributions. For example, some people find the color rendition produced by some fluorescent lamps to be harsh and displeasing. A healthy person can sometimes appear to have an unhealthy skin tone under fluorescent lighting  SONY VAIO VGN-FW31M Battery .

The extent to which this phenomenon occurs is related to the light's spectral composition, and may be gauged by its color rendering index (CRI).

Color temperature

Correlated color temperature (CCT) is a measure of the "shade" of whiteness of a light source, again by comparison with a blackbodySONY VAIO VGN-FW31Z Battery .

Typical incandescent lighting is 2700 K, which is yellowish-white. Halogen lighting is 3000 K. Fluorescent lamps are manufactured to a chosen CCT by altering the mixture of phosphors inside the tube. Warm-white fluorescents have CCT of 2700 K and are popular for residential lighting  SONY VAIO VGN-FW38M Battery .

Neutral-white fluorescents have a CCT of 3000 K or 3500 K. Cool-white fluorescents have a CCT of 4100 K and are popular for office lighting. Daylight fluorescents have a CCT of 5000 K to 6500 K, which is bluish-white.

High CCT lighting generally requires higher light levels   SONY VAIO VGN-AW41JF Battery .

At dimmer illumination levels, the human eye perceives lower color temperatures as more natural, as related through the Kruithof curve. So, a dim 2700 K incandescent lamp appears natural and a bright 5000 K lamp also appears natural, but a dim 5000 K fluorescent lamp appears too pale   SONY VAIO VGN-AW41JF/H Battery .

Daylight-type fluorescents look natural only if they are very bright .

Color rendering index

Color rendering index (CRI) is a measure of how well colors can be perceived using light from a source, relative to light from a reference source such as daylight or a blackbody of the same color temperature  SONY VAIO VGN-AW41MF Battery .

By definition, an incandescent lamp has a CRI of 100. Real-life fluorescent tubes achieve CRIs of anywhere from 50 to 99. Fluorescent lamps with low CRI have phosphors that emit too little red light. Skin appears less pink, and hence "unhealthy" compared with incandescent lighting  SONY VAIO VGN-AW41MF/H Battery .

Colored objects appear muted. For example, a low CRI 6800 K halophosphate tube (an extreme example) will make reds appear dull red or even brown. Since the eye is relatively less efficient at detecting red light, an improvement in color rendering index, with increased energy in the red part of the spectrum, may reduce the overall luminous efficacy SONY VAIO VGN-FW30B Battery .

Lighting arrangements use fluorescent tubes in an assortment of tints of white. Sometimes this is because of the lack of appreciation for the difference or importance of differing tube types. Mixing tube types within fittings can improve the color reproduction of lower quality tubes  SONY VAIO VGN-FW50B Battery .

Phosphor composition

Some of the least pleasant light comes from tubes containing the older, halophosphate-type phosphors (chemical formula Ca5(PO4)3(F, Cl):Sb3+, Mn2+). This phosphor mainly emits yellow and blue light, and relatively little green and red SONY VAIO VGN-FW51B/W Battery .

In the absence of a reference, this mixture appears white to the eye, but the light has an incomplete spectrum. The CRI of such lamps is around 60.

Since the 1990s, higher quality fluorescent lamps use either a higher CRI halophosphate coating, or a triphosphor mixture SONY VAIO VGN-FW51MF Battery ,

based on europium and terbium ions, that have emission bands more evenly distributed over the spectrum of visible light. High CRI halophosphate and triphosphor tubes give a more natural color reproduction to the human eye. The CRI of such lamps is typically 82–100  SONY VAIO VGN-FW51MF/H Battery .


Fluorescent light bulbs come in many shapes and sizes. The compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) is becoming more popular. Many compact fluorescent lamps integrate the auxiliary electronics into the base of the lamp, allowing them to fit into a regular light bulb socket  SONY VAIO VGN-FW51ZF Battery .

In US residences, fluorescent lamps are mostly found in kitchens, basements, or garages, but schools and businesses find the cost savings of fluorescent lamps to be significant and rarely use incandescent lights. Tax incentives and building code result in higher use in places such as California  SONY VAIO VGN-FW51ZF/H Battery .

In other countries, residential use of fluorescent lighting varies depending on the price of energy, financial and environmental concerns of the local population, and acceptability of the light output. In Eastand Southeast Asia it is very rare to see incandescent bulbs in buildings anywhere SONY VAIO VGN-FW52JB Battery .

Some countries are encouraging the phase-out of incandescent light bulbs and substitution of incandescent lamps with fluorescent lamps or other types of energy-efficient lamps  SONY VAIO VGN-FW54FB Battery .

In addition to general lighting, special fluorescent lights are often used in stage lighting for film and video production. They are cooler than traditional halogen light sources, and use high-frequency ballasts to prevent video flickering and high color-rendition index bulbs to approximate daylight color temperatures SONY VAIO VGN-FW70DB Battery .

Luminous efficacy

Fluorescent lamps convert more of the input power to visible light than incandescent lamps. A typical 100 watt tungsten filament incandescent lamp may convert only 2% of its power input to visible white light  SONY VAIO VGN-FW71DB/W Battery ,

whereas typical fluorescent lamps convert about 22% of the power input to visible white light. See the table in the luminous efficacy article.

The efficacy of fluorescent tubes ranges from about 16 lumens per watt for a 4 watt tube with an ordinary ballast to over 100 lumens per watt with a modern electronic ballast, commonly averaging 50 to 67 lm/W overall SONY VAIO VGN-FW72JGB Battery .

Most compact fluorescents above 13 watts with integral electronic ballasts achieve about 60 lm/W. Lamps are rated by lumens after 100 hours of operation. For a given fluorescent tube, a high-frequency electronic ballast gives about a 10% efficacy improvement over an inductive ballast  SONY VAIO VGN-FW73JGB Battery .

It is necessary to include the ballast loss when evaluating the efficacy of a fluorescent lamp system; this can be about 25% of the lamp power with magnetic ballasts, and around 10% with electronic ballasts.

Fluorescent lamp efficacy is dependent on lamp temperature at the coldest part of the lamp  SONY VAIO VGN-FW74FB Battery .

In T8 lamps this is in the center of the tube. In T5 lamps this is at the end of the tube with the text stamped on it. The ideal temperature for a T8 lamp is 25 °C (77 °F) while the T5 lamp is ideally at 35 °C (95 °F).


Typically a fluorescent lamp will last between 10 to 20 times as long as an equivalent incandescent lamp when operated several hours at a time  SONY VAIO VGN-FW81HS Battery .

The higher initial cost of a fluorescent lamp is usually more than compensated for by lower energy consumption over its life. The longer life may also reduce lamp replacement costs, providing additional saving especially where labour is costly. Therefore they are widely used by businesses and institutions, but not as much by households SONY VAIO VGN-FW81NS Battery .

Lower luminosity

Compared with an incandescent lamp, a fluorescent tube is a more diffuse and physically larger light source. In suitably designed lamps, light can be more evenly distributed without point source of glare such as seen from an undiffused incandescent filamentSONY VAIO VGN-FW81S Battery ;

the lamp is large compared to the typical distance between lamp and illuminated surfaces.

Lower heat

About two-thirds to three-quarters less heat is given off by fluorescent lamps compared to an equivalent installation of incandescent lamps. This greatly reduces the size, cost, and energy consumption  SONY VAIO VGN-FW82DS Battery .

Frequent switching

If the lamp is installed where it is frequently switched on and off, it will age rapidly. Under extreme conditions, its lifespan may be much shorter than a cheap incandescent lamp. Each start cycle slightly erodes the electron-emitting surface of the cathodes SONY VAIO VGN-FW82JS Battery ;

when all the emission material is gone, the lamp cannot start with the available ballast voltage. Fixtures intended for flashing of lights (such as for advertising) will use a ballast that maintains cathode temperature when the arc is off, preserving the life of the lampSONY VAIO VGN-FW82XS Battery .

Health and safety issues

If a fluorescent lamp is broken, a very small amount of mercury can contaminate the surrounding environment. About 99% of the mercury is typically contained in the phosphor, especially on lamps that are near their end of life  SONY VAIO VGN-FW83DS Battery.

The broken glass is usually considered a greater hazard than the small amount of spilled mercury. The EPA recommends airing out the location of a fluorescent tube break and using wet paper towels to help pick up the broken glass and fine particles. Any glass and used towels should be disposed of in a sealed plastic bag  SONY VAIO VGN-FW83JS Battery .

Vacuum cleaners can cause the particles to become airborne, and should not be used.

Ultraviolet emission

Fluorescent lamps emit a small amount of ultraviolet (UV) light. A 1993 study in the US found that UV exposure from sitting under fluorescent lights for eight hours is equivalent to only one minute of sun exposure  SONY VAIO VGN-FW83XS Battery .

Very sensitive individuals may experience a variety of health problems relating to light sensitivity that is aggravated by artificial lighting.

UV light can affect sensitive paintings, especially watercolors and many textiles  SONY VAIO VGN-FW90NS Battery .

Valuable art work must be protected from light by additional glass or transparent acrylic sheets put between the lamp(s) and the painting.


Fluorescent lamps require a ballast to stabilize the current through the lamp, and to provide the initial striking voltage required to start the arc discharge   SONY VAIO VGN-FW90S Battery .

This increases the cost of fluorescent light fixtures, though often one ballast is shared between two or more lamps. Electromagnetic ballasts with a minor fault can produce an audible humming or buzzing noise. Magnetic ballasts are usually filled with a tar-like potting compound to reduce emitted noise   SONY VAIO VGN-FW91NS Battery .

Hum is eliminated in lamps with a high-frequency electronic ballast. Energy lost in magnetic ballasts can be significant, on the order of 10% of lamp input power. Electronic ballasts reduce this loss.

[edit]Power quality and radio interference

Simple inductive fluorescent lamp ballasts have a power factor of less than unity   SONY VAIO VGN-FW91S Battery .

Inductive ballasts include power factor correction capacitors. Simple electronic ballasts may also have low power factor due to their rectifier input stage.

Fluorescent lamps are a non-linear load and generate harmonic currents in the electrical power supply  SONY VAIO VGN-FW92DS Battery .

The arc within the lamp may generate radio frequency noise, which can be conducted through power wiring. Suppression of radio interference is possible. Very good suppression is possible, but adds to the cost of the fluorescent fixtures  SONY VAIO VGN-FW92JS Battery .

Operating temperature

Fluorescent lamps operate best around room temperature. At much lower or higher temperatures, efficiency decreases. At below-freezing temperatures standard lamps may not start  SONY VAIO VGN-FW93DS Battery .

Special lamps may be needed for reliable service outdoors in cold weather. In applications such as road and railway signalling, fluorescent lamps which do not generate as much heat as incandescent lamps may not melt snow and ice build up around the lamp, leading to reduced visibility  SONY VAIO VGN-FW93JS Battery .

Lamp shape

Fluorescent tubes are long, low-luminance sources compared with high pressure arc lamps and incandescent lamps. However, low luminous intensity of the emitting surface is useful because it reduces glare. Lamp fixture design must control light from a long tube instead of a compact globe  SONY VAIO VGN-FW139E/H Battery .

The compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) replaces regular incandescent bulbs. However, some CFLs will not fit some lamps, because the harp (heavy wire shade support bracket) is shaped for the narrow neck of an incandescent lamp, while CFLs tend to have a wide housing for their electronic ballast close to the bulb's base  SONY VAIO VGN-FW145E/W Battery .

Flicker problems

Fluorescent lamps using a magnetic mains frequency ballast do not give out a steady light; instead, they flicker at twice the supply frequency. This results in fluctuations not only with light output but color temperature as well, which may pose problems for photography and people who are sensitive to the flicker  SONY VAIO VGN-FW190EBH Battery .

Even among persons not sensitive to light flicker, a stroboscopic effect can be noticed, where something spinning at just the right speed may appear stationary if illuminated solely by a single fluorescent lamp. This effect is eliminated by paired lamps operating on a lead-lag ballast   SONY VAIO VGN-FW190EDH Battery .

Unlike a true strobe lamp, the light level drops in appreciable time and so substantial "blurring" of the moving part would be evident.

In some circumstances, fluorescent lamps operated at mains frequency can also produce flicker at the mains frequency (50 or 60 Hz) itself, which is noticeable by more people  SONY VAIO VGN-FW21E Battery .

This can happen in the last few hours of tube life when the cathode emission coating at one end has almost run out, and thatcathode starts having difficulty emitting enough electrons into the gas fill, resulting in slight rectification and hence uneven light output in positive and negative going mains cycles  SONY VAIO VGN-FW21J Battery .

Mains frequency flicker can also sometimes be emitted from the very ends of the tubes, if each tube electrode produces a slightly different light output pattern on each half-cycle. Flicker at mains frequency is more noticeable in the peripheral vision than it is when viewed directly  SONY VAIO VGN-FW21L Battery .

New fluorescent lamps may show a twisting spiral pattern of light in a part of the lamp. This effect is due to loose cathode material and usually disappears after a few hours of operation.

Electromagnetic ballasts may also cause problems for video recording as there can be a "beat effect" between the periodic reading of a camera's sensor and the fluctuations in intensity of the fluorescent lamp  SONY VAIO VGN-FW21M Battery .

Fluorescent lamps using high-frequency electronic ballasts do not produce visible light flicker, since above about 5 kHz, the excited electron state half-life is longer than a half cycle, and light production becomes continuous. Operating frequencies of electronic ballasts are selected to avoid interference with infrared remote controls  SONY VAIO VGN-FW21Z Battery .

Poor quality (or failing) electronic ballasts may have insufficient reservoir capacitance or have poor regulation, thereby producing considerable 100/120 Hz modulation of the light.


Fluorescent light fixtures cannot be connected to dimmer switches intended for incandescent lamps  SONY VAIO VGN-FW25T/B Battery .

Two effects are responsible for this: the waveform of the voltage emitted by a standard phase-control dimmer interacts badly with many ballasts, and it becomes difficult to sustain an arc in the fluorescent tube at low power levels. Dimming installations require a compatible dimming ballast   SONY VAIO VGN-FW26T/B Battery .

These systems keep the cathodes of the fluorescent tube fully heated even as the arc current is reduced, promoting easy thermionic emission of electrons into the arc stream. CFLs are available that work in conjunction with a suitable dimmer  SONY VAIO VGN-FW27/B Battery .

Disposal and recycling

The disposal of phosphor and particularly the toxic mercury in the tubes is an environmental issue. Governmental regulations in many areas require special disposal of fluorescent lamps separate from general and household wastes SONY VAIO VGN-FW27/W Battery .

For large commercial or industrial users of fluorescent lights, recycling services are available in many nations, and may be required by regulation. In some areas, recycling is also available to consumers  SONY VAIO VGN-FW27T/H Battery .

Lamp sizes and designations

Systematic nomenclature identifies mass-market lamps as to general shape, power rating, length, color, and other electrical and illuminating characteristics SONY VAIO VGN-FW29/B Battery .

Other fluorescent lamps

Black lights
Blacklights are a subset of fluorescent lamps that are used to provide near ultraviolet light (at about 360 nm wavelength). They are built in the same fashion as conventional fluorescent lamps but the glass tube is coated with a phosphor that converts the short-wave UV within the tube to long-wave UV rather than to visible light  SONY VAIO VGN-FW290JRB Battery .
They are used to provoke fluorescence (to provide dramatic effects using blacklight paint and to detect materials such as urine and certain dyes that would be invisible in visible light) as well as to attract insects to bug zappers  SONY VAIO VGN-FW290JTB Battery .
So-called blacklite blue lamps are also made from more expensive deep purple glass known as Wood's glass rather than clear glass. The deep purple glass filters out most of the visible colors of light directly emitted by the mercury-vapor discharge, producing proportionally less visible light compared with UV light  SONY VAIO VGN-FW290JTH Battery .
This allows UV-induced fluorescence to be seen more easily (thereby allowing blacklight posters to seem much more dramatic). The blacklight lamps used in bug zappers do not require this refinement so it is usually omitted in the interest of cost; they are called simply blacklite (and not blacklite blue) SONY VAIO VGN-FW52JB Battery .
Tanning lamps
The lamps used in tanning beds contain a different phosphor blend (typically 3 to 5 or more phosphors) that emits both UVA and UVB, provoking a tanning response in most human skin. Typically, the output is rated as 3% to 10% UVB (5% most typical) with the remaining UV as UVA  SONY VAIO VGN-FW51B/W Battery .
These are mainly F71, F72 or F73 HO (100 W) lamps, although 160 W VHO are somewhat common. One common phosphor used in these lamps is lead-activated barium disilicate, but a europium-activated strontium fluoroborate is also used. Early lamps used thallium as an activator, but emissions of thallium during manufacture were toxic SONY VAIO VGN-FW50B Battery .
Grow lamps
Grow lamps contain phosphor blends that encourage photosynthesis, growth, and/or flowering in plants, algae, photosynthetic bacteria, and other light-dependent organisms. These often emit light in the red and blue color range, which is absorbed by chlorophyll and used for photosynthesis in plants  SONY VAIO VGN-FW47GYH Battery .
Infrared lamps
Lamps can be made with a lithium metaluminate phosphor activated with iron. This phosphor has peak emissions between 675 and 875 nanometers, with lesser emissions in the deep red part of the visible spectrum  SONY VAIO VGN-FW465GJB Battery .
Bilirubin lamps
Deep blue light generated from a europium-activated phosphor is used in the light therapy treatment of jaundice; light of this color penetrates skin and helps in the break up of excess bilirubin  SONY VAIO VGN-FW465GJ/BE1 Battery .
Germicidal lamps
Germicidal lamps depend on the property that UV light kills most germs. Germicidal lamps contain no phosphor at all (making them gas discharge lamps rather than fluorescent) and their tubes are made of fused quartz that is transparent to the UV light emitted by the mercury discharge  SONY VAIO VGN-FW465J/B Battery .
The UV emitted by these tubes will kill germs and ionize oxygen to ozone. In addition it can cause eye and skin damage and should not be used or observed without eye and skin protection. Besides their uses to kill germs and create ozone, they are sometimes used by geologists to identify certain species of minerals by the color of their fluorescence SONY VAIO VGN-FW45TJB Battery .
When used in this fashion, they are fitted with filters in the same way as blacklight-blue lamps are; the filter passes the short-wave UV and blocks the visible light produced by the mercury discharge. They are also used in some EPROM erasers  SONY VAIO VGN-FW45GJB Battery .
Germicidal lamps have designations beginning with G (meaning 'Germicidal'), rather than F, for example G30T8 for a 30-watt, 1-inch (2.5 cm) diameter, 36-inch (91 cm) long germicidal lamp (as opposed to an F30T8, which would be the fluorescent lamp of the same size and rating)  SONY VAIO VGN-FWZJ/H Battery .
Electrodeless lamps
Electrodeless induction lamps are fluorescent lamps without internal electrodes. They have been commercially available since 1990. A current is induced into the gas column using electromagnetic induction  SONY VAIO VGN-FW41M/H Battery .
Because the electrodes are usually the life-limiting element of fluorescent lamps, such electrodeless lamps can have a very long service life, although they also have a higher purchase price SONY VAIO VGN-FW41J/H Battery .
Cold-cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL)
Cold-cathode fluorescent lamps are used as backlighting for LCD displays in personal computer and TV monitors. They are also popular with computer case modders in recent years  SONY VAIO VGN-FW41E/H Battery .

Fluorescent lamps can be illuminated by means other than a proper electrical connection. These other methods, however, result in very dim or very short-lived illumination, and so are seen mostly in science demonstrations  SONY VAIO VGN-FW37J Battery .

Static electricity or a Van de Graaff generator will cause a lamp to flash momentarily as it discharges a high voltage capacitance. A Tesla coil will pass high frequency current through the tube, and since it has a high voltage as well, the gases within the tube will ionize and emit light      SONY VAIO VGN-FW378J/B Battery .

Capacitive coupling with high-voltage power lines can light a lamp continuously at low intensity,  depending on the intensity of the electrostatic field.

Also, placing a bulb half way up a two-way radio antenna while transmitting will illuminate the bulb due to the RF energy SONY VAIO VGN-FW378DH Battery .

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