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Carbon Arc
400W MA Mercury Lamp
140w SO/H lamp running
400w MA Mercury lamp
140w SO/H lamp
400W MA Mercury Lamp
200w SLI/H lamp

Early Arc Lighting

The first industrial arc lights used carbon electrodes and the electrical discharge was in open air.

By the early 1800s low pressure gas discharge lamps had become available. Still only suitable for industrial use, they did produce large amounts of light. Shown here is a 400W medium pressure mercury (MA/V) lamp. As can be seen, the light output is a blue-green colour. The lamp also took about 7 minutes to run up to full operating temperature. These lamps operated hanging vertically but could be operated vertically if a magnetic deflector was used to force the arc away from the inner glass wall.

The MA/V image on the left is shown at start-up. The 'mouse-over' shows the lamp at full running temperature. Note how the arc shape changes with the internal vapour pressure. Unfortunately the images don't show how much brighter the arc has become at full running temperature.

The second lamp shown here developed similarly to the mercury lamp but it took the invention of a glass which was resistant to sodium to allow the lamp to go into production. Using metallic sodium these low pressure lamps produced a yellow light making them monochromatic. Due to this and their high efficiency they were commonly used in street lighting. The arc tube is housed in a "Dewar" or vacuum outer jacket. This reduces heat loss and helps the lamp maintain the high temperature required to evaporate sodium. The early SO/H lamp's outer jacket was reusable and this kept re-lamping costs down. However moisture could become trapped in the jacket during use leading to starting issues. As a result this type of sodium lamp became obsolete in the 1960s with the introduction of the SOI/H lamps.

The video shows the construction of the SO/H lamp.

Linear Sodium Lamp

Now completely obsolete the low pressure Linear sodium lamp was, at one point, a popular lamp in street lighting. This very early version is badged "Mazda Linear 200W". At almost 1 metre in length and rated at 200W it was one of the biggest low pressure sodium lamps. This example predates the use of metalic reflective coatings and like the SOI/H has a double outer tube to reduce heat loss by IR radiation. It also employs a starter strip painted onto the inner glass tube and connected to one electrode. The image shows the lamp at full output with the alternative image in start-up condition. There were a number of improvements made to this lamp over the years but by 1990 it was obsolete. The lamp's discharge tube uses a dimpled construction to increase the cross-sectional area and discharge path length within the lamp.

The picture shows the electrode at one end and the lamp construction.

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