MAY 27, 2016 2:24 PM PDT

The Science Behind Black Lights

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Many amusement parks and museums use hand stamps that are only visible under a special black light. Some popular Halloween costumes are accented with material that are invisible until shown under a black light. The novelty of these items has only increased over time as manufacturers find more ways to incorporate this unique property into everyday items. But exactly how do black lights work?

In short, a black light bulb produces ultraviolet light of the A variety, also known as UVA. This is different than UVB, which is more harmful to the body. Exposure of UVA rays to a substance known as phosphors creates the telltale glow that is so exotic. Phosphors are any substance that responds to radiation by emitting visible light. In essence, it converts UV radiation into visible light - hence why this substance is invisible under normal light, but glows in black light.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
JUL 02, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Carbon Nanolattices: Lighter Than (Atomic) Feathers, Tougher Than Diamonds
JUL 02, 2020
Carbon Nanolattices: Lighter Than (Atomic) Feathers, Tougher Than Diamonds
Carbon is known for its plentiful allotropes, such as the naturally existing graphite and diamond, as well as synthetic ...
JUL 27, 2020
Plants & Animals
Ghost Crabs Produce Sounds in Stomachs
JUL 27, 2020
Ghost Crabs Produce Sounds in Stomachs
Research from Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) and University ...
JUL 29, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Molecular Footloose: Carbon Monoxide Molecules "Square Dance" with Each Other
JUL 29, 2020
Molecular Footloose: Carbon Monoxide Molecules "Square Dance" with Each Other
The act of "dancing" is not limited to humans, as scientists recently discovered. According to a group of Holl ...
AUG 12, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Earthlike Planets May Orbit Supermassive Black Holes
AUG 12, 2020
Earthlike Planets May Orbit Supermassive Black Holes
Supermassive black holes are enormous wells of gravity that bind galaxies together and emit bright X-ray beams. Known to ...
AUG 27, 2020
Plants & Animals
Polar Bear Populations Could Collapse by 2100
AUG 27, 2020
Polar Bear Populations Could Collapse by 2100
A new study reports that polar bear populations could collapse in the next 80 years if greenhouse gas emissions remain a ...
NOV 19, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Unlocking the Secret of a Tasty Cold Drink
NOV 19, 2020
Unlocking the Secret of a Tasty Cold Drink
Sour beer isn't for everyone: its unique taste of acidity and tartness could excite some but turn off others.  ...
Loading Comments...