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How a Xe Lamp Works? Xe lamp cover 2

How a Xe Lamp Works?

Light generation mechanism of a Xe lamp.

Xenon short-arc lamps come in two distinct varieties: pure xenon, which contain only xenon gas; and xenon-mercury, which contain xenon gas and a small amount of mercury metal. A steady-state solar simulator usually uses Xe short-arc lamp as the light source due to its high color temperature 6500K which is close to the Sun’s spectrum (5500K).

In a pure xenon lamp, most of the light is generated within a tiny, pinpoint-sized cloud of plasma situated where the electron stream leaves the face of the cathode. The light generation volume is cone-shaped, and the luminous intensity falls off exponentially moving from cathode to anode. Electrons passing through the plasma cloud strike the anode, causing it to heat. As a result, the anode in a xenon short-arc lamp either must be much larger than the cathode or be water-cooled, to dissipate the heat. The output of a pure xenon short-arc lamp offers continuous spectral power distribution with a color temperature of about 6200K and CRI close to 100. Intensity of light ranges from 20,000 to 500,000 cd/cm2. Though even in a high-pressure lamp there are some very strong emission lines in the near infrared, roughly in the region from 850–900 nm. This spectral region can contain about 10% of the total emitted light. Some applications include light guide systems such as endoscopy and dental technology.

In xenon-mercury short-arc lamps, most of the light is generated in a pinpoint-sized cloud of plasma situated at the tip of each electrode. The light generation volume is shaped like two intersecting cones, and the luminous intensity falls off exponentially moving towards the center of the lamp. Xenon-mercury short-arc lamps have a bluish-white spectrum and extremely high UV output. These lamps are used primarily for UV curing applications, sterilizing objects, and generating ozone.

The very small size of the arc makes it possible to focus the light from the lamp with moderate precision. For this reason, xenon arc lamps of smaller sizes, down to 10 watts, are used in optics and in precision illumination for microscopes and other instruments, although in modern times they are being displaced by single mode laser diodes and white light supercontinuum lasers which can produce a truly diffraction limited spot. Larger lamps are employed in searchlights where narrow beams of light are generated, or in film production lighting where daylight simulation is required.

All xenon short-arc lamps generate substantial ultraviolet radiation. Xenon has strong spectral lines in the UV bands, and these readily pass through the fused quartz lamp envelope. Unlike the borosilicate glass used in standard lamps, fused quartz readily passes UV radiation unless it is specially doped. The UV radiation released by a short-arc lamp can cause a secondary problem of ozone generation. The UV radiation strikes oxygen molecules in the air surrounding the lamp, causing them to ionize. Some of the ionized molecules then recombine as O3, ozone. Equipment that uses short-arc lamps as the light source must contain UV radiation and prevent ozone build-up.

Many lamps have a shortwave UV blocking coating on the envelope and are sold as “Ozone Free” lamps. Some lamps have envelopes made out of ultra-pure synthetic fused silica (such as “Suprasil”), which roughly doubles the cost, but which allows them to emit useful light into the vacuum UV region. These lamps are normally operated in a pure nitrogen atmosphere.

Lamp diagram – Basic Layout & parts Diagram

Parts of the lamp:

How a Xe Lamp Works? Parts of Xe lamp

A Xenon Lamp is comprised of a simple construction in theory, yet the assemblies and parts are all highly specialized. The diagram below shows the basic layout only, hiding many of the details. Listed below is a simplified overview of a typical Xenon lamp:

Quartz Envelope – The thick clear glass that the lamp is built within. The quartz has high strength to withhold the high internal operating pressures, as well as having very specific optical properties for the transmittal of a specific spectrum of light.

Positive & Negative Ends – The ends of the bulb serve many purposes. The thick outer end caps provide a means to mechanically mount the bulb into a fixture, as well as make proper electrical connections. Inside these shells are the lamp seals. The seals are a complex assembly specially designed to seal the inner cavity so no gasses escape, yet allow the electrode leads to pass through to connect the end cap to. The two most common seals used are the “cup” seal, and the “foil” seal. While each are different in construction, both do the same purpose and are each used only in the bulb family sizes where their construction and conductive properties are properly sized.

Electrodes – The Anode & Cathode are the two electrodes that the arc, or flame, flows across. The smaller, or Cathode, is negatively charged, and the tip is where the flame originates from. The larger, or Anode, is positively charged, and receives, or lands, the flame. Both Electrodes are made from pure Tungsten, and then specially treated to survive the lamp’s operating characteristics.

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