Till even a year ago, halogens had been the common choice when it came to high intensity lighting. However, technology has fast upgraded and halogens are fast getting upgraded to a newer and “greener” alternative. Called the “Xenon” lighting, these bulbs are able to produce a brighter beam while consuming lesser amount of energy. Xenon lights also has a top advantage of being highly durable over halogens that had to be replaced every often.
Since most readers here won’t be chemists, let’s try to understand Xenon lighting technology in simpler and useful terms as opposed to statements from the Periodic Table! What we need to know is that both halogen and Xenon offer a number of benefits but to be used in a certain application; you need to know the exact advantages and disadvantages of each.
A Brief About How Xenon Bulbs Work
Both halogen and xenon are incandescent form of lighting. Both use a thin tungsten wire/filament covered in a glass bulb to convert electric energy into heat energy and subsequently into light. The only difference here is that while halogen bulbs use halogen gas inside the glass bulb, Xenon bulbs have xenon to offer the same functionality.
Now, adding an inert gas like halogen or xenon slows down the oxidizing process of the tungsten filament as it is heated continuously. The more the amount of time the filament lasts (doesn’t burn out) the more is the longevity of the bulb.
Now let’s understand why xenon is a more stable alternative to halogen gases and more specifically, why you should be upgrading to xenon bulbs.
The chemical reason
Chemically, halogen gases like fluorine, chlorine, iodine or bromine are all monovalent elements, meaning that they could easily form a negative ion. So in halogen bulbs, the tungsten will gradually wear down its atoms and reform into tungsten halide, which gets re-deposited in the filament, thus keeping the filament intact for long.
Xenon too works in the same way, but being a noble gas, it doesn’t produce negative ion and is highly stable. Practical implications point out to negative color changes (that’s why halogen bulbs get blackened over time) and give out a brighter white light.
In terms of efficiency
For a halogen lamp, the average longevity is around 2,000 hours, 2 times longer than the regular incandescent bulbs. However, xenon light bulbs can last longer for as much as 10,000 hours, without a drop in the quality of brightness. This is 5 times the life of a halogen bulb. Further, xenon required less amount of electricity to be stimulated and thus you save a lot on energy consumption.
In terms of sensitivity
If you have been a user, you already know how hot it can get with a halogen bulb. The heat makes halogen bulbs unsuited to several applications like sensitive displays or artwork. Halogen bulbs also emit UV radiation, a potential hazard to your health. Touching a halogen lamp with bare hand or even getting closer is impossible and in case something cooler gets in sudden contact with the bulb, the glass will immediately burst.
With xenon headlight bulbs, the heat production is minimal and compared to halogen, the UV radiation too is very less. This makes xenon bulbs perfect for application in high traffic areas and minimize the chance of a panic or an accident.
The only thing “not in favor” of xenon bulbs is its price. Being a rare gas, xenon bulbs are more expensive than halogen but if you again see at the long term implication and count in energy saving, the investment is profitable.