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The UV lamp – the energy source
UV lamps generally consist of a quartz tube containing mercury. The body of the lamp is manufactured from high quality quartz, which assures a diffusion of at least 90% of the UV energy and which must be capable of withstanding a maximum internal temperature of 1100°C. The external face of the tube can, for its part, reach temperatures up to 900°C. To avoid damaging the lamp, an efficient heat management system has to be employed.

Functions and principles

A UV lamp comprises a vacuum tube, sealed at each end by an electrode, containing a non flammable gas (mainly argon) and liquid mercury. The application of an electric current creates a discharge in the tube, vaporising the mercury. At present, mercury is the most widely used element in UV lamps because it enables an emission of UV energy over a very wide wavelength spectrum.
In certain cases, doped lamps (lead, iron, cobalt, gallium, etc.) can prove efficient. In fact, these metals have emission spectra different to that of mercury and often emit over a more specific range of wavelengths.
Lifetime of UV lamps

Mercury UV lamps do not suddenly fail. Generally speaking, such lamps can work for several thousands of hours. However, a regular drop in the UV energy efficiency can be observed after a certain number of hours of use. When they reach the end of their operational life, UV lamps can give the impression of working normally whereas the emissions of UV radiation have in fact dropped. In addition, a deterioration in the quartz surface of the lamp, detectable when the lamp becomes increasingly opaque, can cause a filtration of the UV energy (mainly in the shortest wavelengths), and therefore reduce its efficiency. It is for this reason that it is vital to regularly check the general condition of UV lamps.
Did you know?
The lifetime of UV lamps mainly depends on the following parameters:
the quality of the lamp
the heat management system
the cleanliness of the lamp (maintenance frequency)
the number of times the lamp is switched on.
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