Carbon arc lamp is a lamp that produce light by an electric arc (also called a voltaic arc). The lamp consists of two electrodes, first made from carbon but typically made today of tungsten, which are separated by a gas. The type of lamp is often named by the gas contained in the bulb; including neon, argon, xenon, krypton, sodium, metal halide, and mercury, or by the type of electrode as in carbon-arc lamps. A carbon arc lamp is a lamp that produces light when electric current flows across the gap between two carbon electrodes. An arc is the discharge that occurs when a gas is ionized.
A high voltage is pulsed across the lamp to "ignite" or "strike" the arc, after which the discharge can be maintained at a lower voltage. The "strike" requires an electrical circuit with an igniter and a ballast. The ballast is wired in series with the lamp and perform its function. The electrodes are carbon rods in free air. To ignite the lamp, the rods are touched together, thus allowing a relatively low voltage to strike the arc. The rods are then slowly drawn apart, and electric current heats and maintains an arc across the gap. The tips of the carbon rods are heated to incandescence, creating light. The rods are slowly burnt away in use, and the distance between them needs to be regularly adjusted in order to maintain the arc.
Many ingenious mechanisms were invented to effect this automatically, mostly based on solenoids. In the simplest form (which was soon superseded by more smoothly acting devices) the electrodes are mounted vertically. The current supplying the arc is passed in series through a solenoid attached to the top electrode. If the points of the electrodes are touching (as in start up) the resistance falls, the current increases and the increased pull from the solenoid draws the points apart. If the arc starts to fail the current drops and the points close up again.
Uses of carbon arc lamp
- Incandescent lamp
- Building construction
- Motion-picture technology
- Searchlight (lighting).