How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 389

Why do fluorescent emissions of light not produce more heat?
When an atom is excited by a collision and then emits energy as light, it converts most of the collision energy into light. Thus the gas in a fluorescent lamp experiences many collisions but emits most of the collision energy as light. The gas becomes slightly hot, but not nearly as hot as the filament of an incandescent bulb. The electrical energy arrives at the fluorescent bulb as a current of charged particles and most of this energy leaves the bulb as light, without ever becoming heat. However the electrical energy arriving at an incandescent bulb becomes heat first and then becomes light. The conversion of electrical energy to heat dramatically reduces the bulb's ability to emit visible light efficiently.

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