Deuterium Lamps

A deuterium lamp uses a tungsten filament and anode placed on opposite sides of a nickel box structure designed to produce the best output spectrum. Unlike an incandescent bulb, the filament is not the source of light in deuterium lamps. Instead an arc is created from the filament to the anode, a similar process to arc lamps. Because the filament must be very hot before it can operate, it is heated for approximately twenty seconds before use. Because the discharge process produces its own heat, the heater is turned down after discharge begins. Although firing voltages are 300 to 500 volts, once the arc is created voltages drop to around 100 to 200 volts.

The arc created excites the molecular deuterium contained within the bulb to a higher energy state. The deuterium then emits light as it transitions back to its initial state. This continuous cycle is the origin of the continuous ultraviolet radiation. This process is not the same as the process of decay of atomic excited states (atomic emission), where electrons are excited and then emit radiation. Instead from the molecular emission process, where radiative decay of excited states, in this case of molecular deuterium (D2), causes the effect.

Because the lamp operates at high temperatures, normal glass housings cannot be used for a casing (which would also block UV radiation). Instead, a fused quartz, UV glass, or magnesium fluoride envelope is used depending on the specific function of the lamp.

The typical lifetime of a deuterium lamp is approximately 2000 hours (Most manufacturers guarantee 2000 hours, but newer lamps are consistently performing well out to 5000 hours and more).