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What is a Cold Cathode Light?

R. Kayne
R. Kayne

A cold cathode light is a tubular light that works by passing an electrical current through a gas or vapor, much like neon lighting. Cold cathode lights can come in many sizes and colors, and there are many advantages over neon and fluorescent lighting.

The first advantage is that cold cathode lights do not get hot, making them a prime choice for modders who want to internally light windowed PC cases. They are also used to modify the interior and sometimes the exterior of cars, most often the undercarriage.

Cold cathode lights are appropriate for waiting room lighting.
Cold cathode lights are appropriate for waiting room lighting.

A cold cathode light is up to five times brighter than neon lighting, and it has one of the longest lives of any lighting fixture at about 50,000 hours. Unlike incandescent bulbs, the longevity of one of these lights is not shortened by the repeated action of turning it off and on.

For architectural and design purposes, cold cathode lights are ideal. The tubes can be curved to follow any exterior or interior design, such as the rounded lines of a retro art deco malt shop, or the vaulted ceiling and pillared structures found in a classic theater house. Furthermore the unique butt-joint assembly housing allows the bulbs to run in a continuous unbroken line, eliminating shadow effects.

Cold cathode lights take as little as 7.5 watts of electricity per 1 foot (.3 meters) and are flicker-free. The instant power is supplied the cathode tube illuminates to its full brightness and remains so until the power is cut. This is a significant advantage in public places where flickering fluorescent lights can trigger seizures in susceptible people.

Cold cathode lights are often installed in coves where they provide indirect lighting for artistic effect or for quiet areas like alcoves and waiting rooms.

For all of its flexibility of design options, longevity, brightness, color and cool temperature, cold cathode light is finding its way into nearly every aspect of life. Department stores, dance clubs, hospitals and art galleries all avail themselves of various artistic and functional uses of cold cathode lights. Not to mention the PC cases of modders all over the world! It might cost a little more than neon lighting but for all of its advantages most people believe it is well worth the price difference.

Discussion Comments


Can cold cathode lights cure uv gels better that uv led lights and which is more economical? thanks.


I want a CCFL light that will take some time to come on instead of one that turns on directly as soon as the power supply is connected. Please tell me how can I do this?


I've noticed that some of the cold cathode lights are described as: "Tri-Phosphor RGB White Lamp". So if I understand correctly it achieves white by combining the gasses which produce Red, Green, and Blue in equal parts. My question is if there is any way to activate the colors individually or if this lamp can only be white? Thank you.


Some case joints of cold cathode and electrode crack, mostly end of the tube.

Can you share the reason behind this failure of cold cathode?


What is the maximum distance to maintain from cold cathode light source to its transformer?

Does it depend upon secondary cable use for output of a transformer?

If yes, then can you suggest max. distance for an 8 mm single core silicon cable?


What is the temperature range in which cold cathode lighting can safely operate? What amount of heat is generated inside a closed environment?

What effect does moisture have on cold cathode lighting? What preventative maintenance should be carried out on cold cathode lighting?


i want to make desktop lamps using cold cathode lights. for a power source i was hoping to use usb but all the tubes i find online use pci interfaces. would simply soldering a usb connection onto it do the trick or are there other factors?


Cold cathode lights do not use mercury, and they can be used with a proper dimmer switch.


Does cold cathode lighting use mercury to ignite the gas? I am working on a LEED project which precludes the use of mercury or other toxic substances.


can Cold Cathode Lights be dimmed, unlike fluorescent?

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    • Cold cathode lights are appropriate for waiting room lighting.
      By: jovannig
      Cold cathode lights are appropriate for waiting room lighting.