How Do Fluorescent Light Bulbs Work?


Quick Answer

The most common type of fluorescent light, the hot cathode light, works by using electricity to supercharge the ions of mercury gas encased within a glass tube. When the ions are charged, they emit photons that are converted into standard light by a phosphor coating on the glass.

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Full Answer

Fluorescent lights were first put into use during the later half of the 19th century, but it wasn't until the early 20th century that they entered into mass production. It took numerous inventors several decades to determine which materials could be used to create a commercially viable fluorescent light. Modern lights are filled with mercury gas, which is dangerous if inhaled.

One of the largest advantages of using fluorescent lights is their considerably long lifespan. Fluorescent lights also require a small amount of energy to create a large amount of light, thus resulting in a lower energy bill for those who use them. Traditional light bulbs use a filament that burns out over time, requiring the entire bulb to be thrown away and replaced.

One of the major disadvantages of fluorescent lighting is the frequent flickering caused by the supercharged mercury gas. It can be very bothersome to certain people, resulting in headaches or nausea.

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