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Fluorescent Lighting

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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