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INTRODUCTION TO COLD CATHODE Cold Cathode Versus Neon, Fluorescent, and Fiber Optic

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COLD Detail of a 25mm cold


CATHODE AND NEON? cathode lamp. The electrode
is a virtually indestructible
Although both cold cathode and neon create light by iron thimble that allows for
instant lamp starting, 50,000-
the same principle, cold cathode lamps operate on hour life, and the ability to
significantly higher currents, utilize more efficient lamp dim without any special
dimming ballasts. Cold
color coatings, and are more than twice the diameter cathode lamps produce up
of neon tubing. Cold cathode also provides up to five to 5 times more light than
neon tubes.
times the light output of neon with the same choice of
colors. Cold cathode lamps are also far easier to Detail of a 12mm neon tube.
Neon tubes are low bright-
install and, are much less fragile. Unlike neon, each ness and small diameter and
cold cathode system from Cathode Lighting Systems are ideally suited for signs
and graphics but not for
carries a full UL and C-UL listing. general illumination.

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COLD CATHODE AND FLUORESCENT?


The technical name for a standard fluorescent lamp is hot
cathode. The coated tungsten coil within the lamp produces
electrons to support the lamp's gas discharge in a process called
thermionic emission. This means that in order to produce The interior of a standard
fluorescent lamp. A tungsten
electrons, the coated coil must be red hot (approximately coil is coated within emissive
900 C). When the emissive material that coats the coil is con- material. Lamp life is typically
15,000 hours and is reduced
sumed, the lamp ceases to operate. These lamps require by 3 hours each time lamps
are turned on.
special ballasts if dimming is required. Conversely, a cold
cathode electrode is a rugged iron thimble that does not
operate in a thermionic manner. At an operating temperature
of approximately 200 C, the electrode is relatively cold, hence
the term cold cathode. The typical lamp life of
TYPICAL EXPECTED LAMP LIFE: COLD CATHODE VS. FLUORESCENT
a fluorescent lamp is 15,000 hours with 3
100%
PERCENT OF LAMPS STILL OPERATIONAL

hours of lamp life lost each time lamps are 90%

turned on. 80%

70%

60% COLD CATHODE


The chart at right illustrates the typical
lamp life of a cold cathode lamp versus LAMPS
50%
a fluorescent lamp based on testing a FLUORESCENT
40%
large batch of each type of lamp. LAMPS
30%
Notice that 50% of the fluorescent lamps
have already failed prior to reaching 20%
their rated life. 10%

0%
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50
HOURS OF OPERATION (IN THOUSANDS)

2002 Cathode Lighting Systems Inc.

8020 Queenair Drive, Gaithersburg, MD 20879 ph: 301 921 4120 fax: 301 963 3050
e-mail: info@CathodeLightingSystems.com website: www.CathodeLightingSystems.com 5