Is There a Difference Between a Blacklight and a UV Light?

April 20, 2022 5 min read

UV lights are useful for disinfecting surfaces such as food or equipment. Blacklights are often used in photography and film production. Which type of light should you use for each purpose?

Blacklight bulbs emit both visible and ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths of light. The wavelength ranges from 400 nm to 700 nm. Visible light has a range of 380 nm to 780 nm. Ultraviolet light has a range of 280 nm to 400 nm.

Both types of light are used in various applications. For example, blacklights are used to examine objects under a microscope. They also can be used to detect bloodstains on clothing. UV lights are used to sterilize medical instruments and other items. They're also used to determine the level of contamination on photographic paper which is essential for archiving photos.

Both types of lighting have their advantages and disadvantages. UV light is not visible to humans, but it's effective at killing germs. A disadvantage might be that some light-sensitive materials will react negatively to UV light. Although most cameras have automatic settings to take pictures with proper exposure using either type of light, you still may need to adjust them manually.

You'll notice that when an object is exposed to sunlight, its color changes depending on how long it was outdoors before being photographed. If you shoot a picture outside early in the morning after darkening all windows and doors inside the house, then your subject will look blue because that light is coming through the window. However, if you go out later in the day, the sun will have moved higher in the sky and would no longer be blocking the sunlight from reaching your camera. This explains why the images become more yellowish in the afternoon.

Because of how similar their properties are, most people often confuse the two and assume a blacklight is the same as UV light. Is this the case? We've explored whether there is a difference between UV light and blacklight. 

Is There A Difference Between UV light and Blacklight?

Most people assume they are the same because they have the same properties, or assume they are two entirely different forms of light altogether. The truth is somewhat of a mix.

The truth is that blacklight is a type of UVA light, and UVA light is a type of UV light. So blacklight is a type of UV light. But UV light isn't always black. It comes in many colors, including violet, blue, green, red, orange, and yellow. And while blacklight bulbs do emit UV light, they don't necessarily emit only UV light. Some emit light across the entire spectrum.

However, even though blacklight bulbs don't emit only UV light, they are usually referred to as UV lamps. When referring to a blacklight bulb, we typically mean a lamp emitting UV light.

So what does this mean for us? Well, it means that although a blacklight bulb emits UV light, it doesn't necessarily emit only UV. In fact, it could omit any part of the spectrum. That makes sense considering that the word “black” refers to the absence of light, rather than the color.

So now let's talk about the differences between UV light and black light.

BlackLight vs. UV Light

UV light has been around since the dawn of time. It's a form of electromagnetic radiation that exists within the range of wavelengths between 200nm and 400nm. Most people know that UV light is invisible to our eyes, but it's actually very harmful to our skin.

UVA light is another type of ultraviolet light that is responsible for blacklights. It falls under the wavelength range of 320–400 nm. Like UVB light, UVA light can cause damage to human tissue. UVA rays can cause aging of the skin, wrinkles, and other signs of premature aging. UVA light penetrates deep into the dermis layer of the skin, where it causes changes in collagen and elastin fibers. This leads to wrinkling and sagging of the skin.

UVA light also contributes to the development of brown spots on the skin, age spots, and liver spots. In addition to these visible effects, UVA rays may be linked to cancerous growths and tumors.

Because of the effects of UVA on a blacklight, blacklights are able to see the fluorescence. Fluorescence is a phenomenon in which certain materials absorb energy from light sources with shorter wavelengths and re-emit energy at longer wavelengths. For example, some plants use fluorescence to attract pollinators.

Fluorescent lighting uses fluorescent tubes to produce white light by combining the emissions of three primary colors (red, green, and blue) with phosphors. These phosphors contain atoms of rare earth elements such as yttrium, europium, terbium, and dysprosium. They're used to creating the characteristic glow of fluorescent lights.

While UVA light is invisible to the naked eye, it can still be seen using a blacklight. Because blacklights are designed specifically to detect fluorescence, they can show up objects that aren't normally visible to the naked eye. Blacklights are often used in forensic science, medical research, archaeology, and art history. 

There isn't much difference between UV light and blacklight because blacklight comes from UV light. But there are some differences between the two. Let's take a look.

What Is The Difference Between A Blacklight And A UV Lamp?

The first thing you need to know is that a blacklight is not an actual UV lamp. While both types of devices emit UV light, a blacklight contains a different set of components.

A blacklight is made up of a glass tube, a reflector, a filter, and a bulb. The glass tube holds the bulb inside, while the reflector focuses the light emitted by the bulb onto the surface being viewed. The filter allows only specific wavelengths of light through. Finally, the bulb creates the light source.

On the other hand, a UV lamp consists of a quartz tube, a metal reflector, a lens, and a power supply. The quartz tube holds the bulb inside and the metal reflector focuses the light produced by the bulb onto the viewing surface. The lens is what allows the user to view the object. Lastly, the power supply provides electricity to the device.

Final Thoughts…

Blacklights have a number of advantages over UV lamps. First, they're safer than UV lamps. You won't get burned if you hold one in your hands or touch it. Second, they don't require any special training to operate. Third, they're easier to find. Fourth, they cost less than UV lamps. Fifth, they're more versatile. You can use them for many things besides just examining objects under a microscope. Sixth, they're more portable. Seventh, they're better suited for indoor use. Eighth, they're more environmentally friendly.

Plus, you can use a blacklight to see if there are any hidden messages behind an oil painting that's been around for centuries. And who wouldn't want to have their own Da Vinci Code moment with a blacklight? We wouldn't recommend using a blacklight around a bathroom though, some things are too traumatizing for us to let you try.

So, next time you want to examine something under a microscope or use it to find fun fluorescence, consider buying a blacklight instead of a UV lamp.