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When you turn a flashlight on, it can feel like magic. But inside the device that you’re holding, there’s a sound scientific process that’s turning electricity into light that you can use.
So, how exactly does a flashlight work, and what are all of its different components? It seems like it’s a complicated thing, but it’s simpler than you might think.
Here, we walk you through the basics of a flashlight!
Flashlights work with the same principles of electricity as anything else. The electrons run between the negative and positive electrodes of the battery, and when they reach the bulb, they generate heat at the filament, and this heat generates light.
When the light is off, it creates an opening in the circuit, which cuts the circuit. With an incomplete circuit, everything turns off. When the light is turned on, it completes the circuit again, creating light!
Of course, a flashlight needs to direct that light somewhere, and that’s the job of the reflector. The reflector is a plastic part covered with aluminum, and it redirects light toward the front of the flashlight.
These are the basics of how a flashlight operates; every other component in a flashlight is there to protect the flashlight itself or simply make it easier to hold and use.
LED flashlights follow the same basic principles as any other flashlight, except they use different types of “lamps,” or bulbs.
An LED is simply a small diode wrapped in epoxy, and the epoxy glows when electricity runs through it. They’re extremely energy efficient and long lasting, but you typically can’t swap out LEDs. So, when an LED flashlight breaks, you’ll need to purchase an all-new flashlight instead of just swapping out the bulb.
A flashlight can be broken down into seven different parts, regardless of the type that you’re using. Let’s go over each part and what it does.
Flashlights use a classic example of a “simple” series circuit, since there aren’t many different components that it flows through. Sometimes, a flashlight with multiple batteries will have them in a parallel circuit, but the flashlight itself still uses a series circuit.
Using a series circuit enables you to turn off the flashlight by disconnecting just one part of the circuit, which is exactly what you want with an on/off switch!
While flashlights are incredibly useful products, few people take the time to understand how they work. Now that you know more about them, you can truly appreciate how these simple little devices have revolutionized the way that humans have lit up the world!
Featured Image Credit: OgnjenO, Shutterstock
Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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