Fluorescent Lights have a different set of pros and cons as compared with incandescent. They
are more efficient than incandescent but they are more complicated (with a greater number
of potential points of failure). Incandescent systems also tend to take up more space. A
vacuum tube made of glass containing mercury vapor will sustain an arc when a current of
electricity is passed through its interior. The arc has to be started with a pulse of very
high voltage. Once started, the current can be sustained by a lower (but still high)
voltage. The light that is emitted is mostly in the ultra-violet range. The inside surface
of the tube is coated with a powder of a phosphor which obsorbs the ultra-violet light and
re-emits light mostly in the visible spectrum. The drawbacks of fluorescent are many.
Flourescent lighting is generally closer to daylight in its composition (as compared to
incandescent) but tends to be heavy in the middle of its range giving a green hue. Because
of the need to sustain the arc, this technology is generally not dimmable. Also, typical
fluorescent lights take a long time to acheive their full brightness (on the order of one or
more minutes). These lights are either on or off. Also, the current changes direction at the
rate of the power supply which is almost always driven by A/C current. Because of this, the
light given off has a flicker at the rate of the power supply. An attempt to provide color
control with this technology would be very problematic as these systems tend to be very bulky
even when only providing a static color regime. Finally, flourescent lights tend to be constucted
using toxic components. The toxic properties of mercury are well known but the use of berylium
in their construction makes this technology even more dangerous. This element can be more deadly
than mercury if inhaled. There is always a danger of the vacuum tube imploding and, when this
happens, much of the phosphor dust coating will be thrown into the air.
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