UV Flashlight Scavenger Hunt

Laurie NeilsenBy: Laurie Neilsen

When many people think of UV lights or black lights, they think of posters in college dorm rooms, or spooky Halloween displays. Ultraviolet light, however, is an important subject of scientific study. Occupying the segment of the electromagnetic wavelength spectrum between 10 nm and 400 nm, Ultraviolet light is invisible to the human eye. UV lights are often referred to as “black” lights because of this.

The UV Flashlights available from Educational Innovations emit long-wave UV light at 385 nm. When the invisible ultraviolet light shines on a fluorescent substance, the light emitted is slightly less energetic. The loss of energy lengthens the wavelength of the light, bringing it above 400 nm, and into the visible spectrum. Materials which have this reaction to UV light are all around us in our daily lives.

I went home one day with one of our 51-bulb Long-Wave UV Flashlights to make note of what in my apartment does and does not fluoresce. Some were items I expected, like whiteUV Flashlight paper. Many of my books and many of the labels on products throughout my home glowed brightly under the UV light. Likewise, many white fabrics also fluoresced, including dryer sheets and some old insulation around our doorways. The text on one of my posters seemed to nearly jump off the paper, even though it is not a poster designed to make college students say “whoa.”

I was not surprised to find that many items commonly called “neon” glow under a blacklight. There were several Lego pieces which glowed quite brightly, usually the headlights on the vehicles. Any brightly colored labels or plastic packaging lit up, as did some clear plastic packages. I was surprised to see that Read the rest of this entry »