Why Do High-power Lamps Make Clicking Sounds When Turned on?

Why high-power arc-lamps make clicking sounds when turned on? Learn the science behind this lighting technology.

Why Do High-power Lamps Make Clicking Sounds When Turned on?
Photo by National Cancer Institute / Unsplash

The Science Behind High-power Lamps

High-power lamps, often found in vast spaces like football stadiums and parking lots, are a type of arc-lamp. When switched on, the characteristic clicking and buzzing sounds emerge due to the lamp's specific design.

Within the glass bulb of these arc-lamps are two connections, without a wire between them. Upon activation, the lamp generates very high voltage, often in the tens of kilovolts, resulting in sparks across the gap between the two connections, leading to the characteristic click and buzz.

The Role of Gas Mixture

Upon switch-on, the initial sparking occurs for a second or two, causing the gas inside the glass to begin conducting electricity. Subsequently, the fitting provides a lower voltage with significant current, maintaining the spark, known as an arc.

This arc causes the gas mixture inside the bulb to respond to the heat generated, producing a bright glow that provides the intended illumination.

Benefits and Use Cases

High-power lamps are favored for their efficiency in illuminating large areas, fulfilling the high brightness and power demands of spaces like stadiums and parking lots.

Environmental Impact

Despite their effectiveness, the environmental impact of high-power lamps, such as energy consumption and potential light pollution, remains a concern and subject of ongoing research.

Technological Advancements

With innovations in lighting technology, including LED and smart lighting systems, the industry continually seeks to develop more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional high-power lamps.