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What is the proper name for the bulb? The people who actually manufacture the bulbs call them lamps or tubes. The general public most commonly refers to them as bulbs. The concept of calling the bulb by the name  lamp  confuses people because the general public also refers to the whole lamp fixture as a lamp. As far as I am concerned, the UV source can be called a bulb, a lamp, or a tube as far as the general public is concerned it really does not matter. If you need a replacement bulb/lamp/tube for one of my lamp fixtures, I do not care what you call it, all I need to know is the wattage, the wavelength (SW/UV C, MW/UV B, or LW/UV A), and if it is powered from AC or DC.

I use compact fluorescent "H" tubes or U tubes because the side by side shape allows the bulbs/tubes to emit about twice as much UV per foot compared to straight tubes.

For the small units, I standardized on 9 watt bulbs/tubes with a two pin G23 base because Philips makes those bulbs/tubes in all three wavelengths, UV A, UV B, and UV C. In fact, Philips is the only major supplier I have found with standard commercially available H tubes in all three wavelengths,  

Philips does now manufacture all of the sizes and wavelengths that are needed for fluorescent rock collecting. The larger UV A and UV B are available from Philips (but not always cost effective), so I use Oriental sources for some of the 18 watt, 36 watt and 60 watt UV A and UV B tubes.  The 95 watt tubes are made custom for Way Too Cool and therefore can be offered at a substantial discount.

How long will a tube/lamp last?

I am currently conducting life-cycle testing on some of the lamps/tubes that I use. The answer to this question depends on many factors. Here is a link to a website with pertinent information: http://www.zetatalk.com/energy/tengy07q.htm.

Philips has done extensive testing on all of their products but the test conditions do not match the way rock collectors use these lamps/tubes. On my larger AC models (18 watts and above), I use special programmed start ballasts that will allow the lamps/tubes to be cycled on and off for at least 50,000 cycles before burning out when properly maintained. One condition that will drastically shorten the life of the tube and the ballast is if the fan filter media gets clogged causing the unit to overheat.


What are phosphors? The white powder in a standard household 4 fluorescent tube is a blend of phosphors. The mercury vapor inside the tube emits SW UV and the phosphors absorb the UV and re-emit it (it fluoresces) to produce white light. The mercury vapor in a SW UV bulb emits light radiation at a wavelength of about 254 nm.

To make a fluorescent tube emit any other wavelength (including white light), the common method is to put a phosphor coating on the inside of the tube. There are two phosphors commonly used in the LW (UV A),  poster lamps  or  black lights  - one phosphor that emits a peak wavelength at 352 nm and one that peaks at 368nm. Generally, the 368 nm gives a better LW response from the minerals. The Philips 9 watt UV A bulb uses the 368 nm phosphor (see the curve marked TL/10 below), and the Philips UV A 36 watt bulb uses a phosphor with a peak at about 352 nm (see the curve marked PL-L below).

UV B tubes use a variety of phosphors depending on the manufacturer and they all have peaks somewhere between 302 nm and 318 nm. In my experience, the higher/longer wavelengths (315-318 nm) give a better fluorescent response with the minerals.

Are the phosphors always inside the bulb?

No, to my knowledge, several manufacturers of UV lamp fixtures, are selling or experimenting with wavelength changing materials that are external to the tube/bulb. I have a US Patent (and several more Patents Pending) on lamp fixtures with various wavelength changing mechanisms. UVP Inc., has several US Patents, and UV Systems has at least one Patent. I currently manufacture several models that have a single UV C tube/bulb and a manual or motorized rotating element that changes the UV C to UV A and UV B. AS the element is rotated, the UV automatically and continuously changes from UV C, to a blend of UV C & UV B, then to all UV B, then to a blend of UV B & UV A, then all UV A, then to a blend of UV A & UV C. The effect in a display case is captivating. I find that people generally watch one specimen as the UV changes, then they watch another specimen go through all of the UV changes, and another, and another, etc.

We all want to save where we can.  Tubes is not a place to cut corners.  We have tried and tried to use tubes other than Phillips for a while now.  In most cases it is not wise.  We have found a reliable distributor that is offering competitive pricing on Phillips tubes and therefore we will be using Philips only with the exception of tubes that have been customized specifically for Way Too Cool LLC and therefore meet the standards that are required.  There is so much that goes into choosing a tube.  For example did you know if you run a DC lamp you should use only a DC tube.  Way Too Cool LLC is the only manufacturer to offer DC tubes.  This will give you many more hours of field use.  Sure the AC tube will work but not as long or dependably.