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Discharge lamps are a family of artificial light sources that generate light by sending an electrical discharge through an ionized gas, i.e. a plasma. The character of the gas discharge critically depends on the frequency or modulation of the current. Typically, such lamps use a noble gas (argon, neon, krypton and xenon) or a mixture of these gases. Most lamps are filled with additional materials, like mercury, sodium, and/or metal halides.
In operation the gas is ionized, and free electrons, accelerated by the electrical field in the tube, collide with gas and metal atoms. Some electrons circling around the gas and metal atoms are excited by these collisions, bringing them to a higher energy state. When the electron falls back to its original state, it emits a photon, resulting in visible light or ultraviolet radiation.