Date: 29/11/2021
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Name That Technology

Can you guess this lighting technology?

Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL)

A Compact Fluorescent Lamp is a fluorescent lamp that was created to replace an incandescent light bulb.

When was it invented?

Edward E. Hammer, an engineer with General Electric, invented the spiral CFL in response to the oil crisis of 1973.  It would have cost GE $25 million to build new factories to produce the lamps, so the invention was then shelved.  It was eventually copied by others.

So how do they work?

In a CFL, an electric current is driven through a tube containing argon and a small amount of mercury vapor which generates invisible ultraviolet light.  This excites a fluorescent coating on the inside of the tube and in return emits visible light.   

Have you ever noticed how long it takes for CFLs to become fully lit? CFLs typically need a little more energy when they are first turned on which is why they take longer than other lights to reach full brightness.  

Are they energy efficient?

Compared to incandescent lamps, CFLs use one-fifth to one-third the electric power and last eight to fifteen times longer.  Like all fluorescent lamps, CFLs contain toxic Mercury which makes their disposal complicated.  It is very important to recycle these lamps.  A lot of countries have established special collections systems, so they are not disposed of with regular garbage.  

Even though CFLs are more energy efficient than incandescent, LEDs are more efficient typically using 50-60% of the energy that a normal fluorescent light uses.

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