The History & Development of Xenon Flashtubes

April 23, 2018

Most things that we consider today as hugely common items were actually once a main technological development. In actual fact, there were some times that a simple manipulation or adding of a specific component that led to significant changes, as well as innovations. These are what served as the foundation for more technological advancements later. One of which is the technology used in flashtubes. There really is no doubt that by means of these improvements or developments, as well as the rapid advancement of technology, that previously, flashtubes were not the same as what they are now. They are on a whole new level.

The xenon flashtube is undoubtedly one of the major lighting devices that is used nowadays. They are used for lighting purposes, most especially when it comes to the theatrical lighting, as well as in emergency or warning lighting applications. Innovation_300x300

Flashtube: What is this?

The flashtube is also known as the flash lamp. This is actually an electric arc-type lamp that is mainly designed to produce full-spectrum, incoherent, and extremely intense white light that is perfect for the very short amount of time. Furthermore, flashtubes are made of glass tubing that has electrodes on it at both ends.

Moreover, flashtubes are also filled with a gas, which ionizes when triggered. It also conducts a pulse that’s high voltage to be able to produce the light. Flashtubes are well known for their use in the field of photography. However, they are also used in various medical, scientific, entertainment, and industrial applications.

 

Flashtube: The History

In actual fact, the flashtube was developed and invented in the 1930s by the famous Harold Edgerton. It was also in the same year he became fond of taking lots and lots of pictures. This is why he used flashtubes as his means of taking sharper photographs of moving objects. In his time, flashtubes were largely used in the strobe lights for various scientific studies. However, eventually, flashtubes were replaced by the powder and chemical flashbulbs. Many began to use them in their mainstream photography.

Furthermore, Harold Edgerton built his first ever flash while he was at the Massachusetts Institute of technology in the year 1927. Due to his strong desire in taking photographs of moving objects (motor, in particular), he chose to improve all the necessary processes of spark photography. To be able to generate a better light output, he then replaced an electrical-arc, open-air discharge, with a mercury-arc rectifier. Because of this, he was able to achieve a 10mcs duration of the flash. Not just that, he was also able to photograph the moving motor based on his own desires.

On the other hand, however, the flashtube’s efficiency with the mercury-arc rectifier was just limited. In fact, it was dependent on the temperature, and may only perform efficiently when it is at a high temperature. He then decided to try the noble gas rather than the mercury, which he previously used.

It was in the 1930s that he decided to employ the General Electric Company to construct lamps that used argon. These argon tubes were not dependent on the temperature, were more efficient, more minute, and were also able to be mounted near the reflector that let the flashtube concentrate its own light output. This is what made the camera designers apply this advancement in technology to their own products.

 

Xenon Flashtubes

Harold Edgerton discovered that xenon was more appropriate to use instead of the argon that the General Electric Company made and the most efficient noble gas. Furthermore, he also discovered that flashtubes, which used the xenon gas may have the capability of producing a spectrum that is very close to that of daylight. This particular discovery of Harold Edgerton ultimately led flashtubes in becoming the standard and the number one option for the lighting industry. It in fact, replaced most of the previous incandescent lamps on the market.

In the 90s, various manufacturers had made some developments on the xenon flashtubes to be able to produce much brighter light. They are what we call today High-Intensity Discharge or HID head lamps or xenon headlights. These produce a very intense white light flash for approximately 3000 lumens based on the official statistics. These kinds of flashtubes were actually being used in headlights of vehicles.

These days, xenon flashtubes are used in various industrial and scientific applications. These include television and radio towers, alarm systems, theatrical lighting, aircraft anti-collision lighting, and more.

They can be seen almost everywhere now, and although they may seem to be ordinary and common, they were once a wonderful technological discovery in the past.





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