HOW BLACK LIGHTS WORKS
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How do black lights work?
Black lights are very entertaining objects. Hold them
up to a “black light” poster and watch the images glow or stand under a black
white and look at how white your t-shirt is. Black lights are so powerful at
picking up these bright colours that even pieces of lint that you would never
even notice are very noticeable when placed under a black light. But how do
these lights work?
If a black light bulb were to be turned on in a
completely dark room, a purplish colour would be produced. The purplish hue is
the colour that the human eye can see but along with that glow is ultraviolet
light that the human eye cannot detect. This is because the human eye sees
colour on a broad spectrum that ranges from red to orange, yellow, green, blue,
and violet. Ultraviolet is brighter than violet light and therefore, cannot be
seen. A black light produces UVA light, which is different than UVB light, the
type that causes much more damage.
The glow that can be seen under a black light is
comprised of phosphors. A phosphor is something that produces light that can be
seen with the human eye when it is exposed to radiation. The phosphors are able
to do this because they can take the ultraviolet light that we can’t see and
turn it into light that we can see.
There are different types of black lights although
the standard type is a normal fluorescent light bulb with just a few variations.
Fluorescent lights produce light by transferring electricity through a tube that
contains inert gas and a tiny amount of mercury. Once the energy has passed
through, the mercury atoms output energy in the form of light photons. Although
some of the light photons that these lights produce are visible to the human
eye, most of them are in the form of ultraviolet light. To make it visible to
the human eye, there is a phosphor coating around the exterior of the tube.
Phosphors produce light when exposed to light when
a photon comes into contact with a phosphor atom. When this happens, one of the
phosphor’s electrons will gain a higher level of energy and this will cause the
atom to vibrate and create heat. The electron will return to its normal state of
energy and when that happens, it will release another photon, creating more
energy. The photon will have a lower energy level than the photon that began the
entire process because some energy was lost when the photon became heated. When
this process takes place in a fluorescent, the result is the white light that we
Although there are two different types of black
light, they both work in the same type of way, operating off of the same
principle. The two different types of black light are the tube black light and
the incandescent black light bulb. The tube black light has the same phosphor
coating that fluorescent white light tubes have on the outside but the coating
also contains protection from UVB and UVC light. Because the tube glass is
black, it absorbs the majority of the light that can be seen. Only long-wave,
UVA light that is not dangerous will make its way to the outside of the tube.
Just as a tube black light is similar to a fluorescent white light tube, an
incandescent black light works much like an incandescent white light bulb that
is often used around a person’s home. In these types of black lights, there are
filters that are used to absorb the light from the filament that heats up inside
of the light bulb. Whatever the type of black light that is being used, they all
work in the way that phosphors react to the ultraviolet light that they are
being exposed to.
A Black Light Bulb
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