How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 525

Can the light from a fluorescent lamp be collimated into a beam of parallel rays?
While a converging lens or a concave mirror can always direct light from a bright source in a particular direction, the degree of collimation (the extent to which the rays become parallel) depends on how large the light source is. The smaller the light source, the better the collimation. Spotlights and movie projects use extremely bright, very small light sources to create their highly collimated beams. Since fluorescent lamps tend to be rather large and have modest surface brightnesses, I'm afraid that you would be disappointed with the best beam that you could create from that light. The ultimate collimated light source is a laser beam. In effect, the identical photons of light in a laser beam all originate from the same point in space, so that the collimated beam is as close to perfectly collimated as the nature of light waves will allow.

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