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Mercury gas in fluorescent lights

  1. Aug 31, 2010 #1
    I'm a mechanical (mecha-nickel) engineer and not an electrical engineer, so please don't kill me for asking:

    In a fluorescent light the high voltage potential between each end of the light strips the electrons from the mercury gas which ultimamately generates UV light, etc., etc.

    My question is this: Why don't the remaining positively charged mercury ions rush to the negative pole at the one end of the flourescent light?

    Perhaps they do--or try to--but becuase it's alternating current the poor mercury ions can't decide which way to go. Please don't tell me that that's the answer because that's such a lame explanation.

  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 1, 2010 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Are you sure mercury is being ionized, and not just excited?
  4. Sep 1, 2010 #3
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