Cold Cathode

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The Cold Truth About Cold Cathodes

What is it?

Let’s start with the obvious question: what is a cold cathode light bulb? A cold cathode fluorescent lamp (CCFL) is a lighting system that utilizes both fluorescence and electron discharge in order to produce light. This means they operate similar to a standard fluorescent lamp, by exciting electrodes, but they just go about it differently. CCFLs use cathodes without a filament, and instead rely upon the voltage potential present within the tube to activate the mercury and instigate current flow. This results in a bulb that has a higher starting voltage than a standard CFL, but the electrical current is lower.

Where does the "cold" part come into play?

Now, I know with a name like “cold cathode” you would think that the bulbs are going to be cold when in use. A common misconception, because light is energy and energy is generated by movement, and movement causes friction, and friction generates heat. Ergo, cold cathode bulbs still produce heat. Just not as much as a regular fluorescent or an incandescent. CCFL bulbs heat up to roughly 200° F when in use, which is a far cry from being “cold”. In relation to a standard Fluorescent bulb however, which heats up to around 900°, one can see where the name “cold cathode” came from.

Ok, so where would I use a cold cathode light bulb?

When considering using a Cold Cathode Fluorescent light bulb for your project, keep in mind that they can be used as a direct replacement for incandescent bulbs in many applications, and will reduce energy costs in such situations drastically. They are versatile and efficient and feature exceptionally long life in comparison as well. Ideal uses include applications where flashing lights are desired, and are often seen used in restaurants, retail locations, displays, and signs. Regardless of how you use a Cold Cathode Fluorescent Bulb, their unique technology continues to make them an interesting and appealing choice in lighting design.

Still curious about CCFLs? Check out our blog here!

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