. As these transitions occur less often in certain materials, absorbed radiation may be re-emitted at a lower intensity for up to several hours.

The study of phosphorescent materials led to the discovery of radioactivity in 1896.

Explanations of the phenomenon

imple explanation

In simple terms, phosphorescence is a process in which energy absorbed by a substance is released relatively slowly in the form of light. This is in some cases the mechanism used for "glow-in-the-dark" materials which are "charged" by exposure to light. Unlike the relatively swift reactions in a common fluorescent tube, phosphorescent materials used for these materials absorb the energy and "store" it for a longer time as the subatomic reactions required to re-emit the light occur less often.

Quantum mechanical explanation

Most photoluminescent events, in which a chemical substrate absorbs and then re-emits a photon of light, are fast, on the order of 10 nanoseconds. However, for light to be absorbed and emitted at these fast time scales, the energy of the photons involved (i.e. the wavelength of the light) must be carefully tuned according to the rules of quantum mechanics to match the available energy states and allowed transitions of the substrate. In the special case of phosphorescence, the absorbed photon energy undergoes an unusual intersystem crossing into an energy state of higher "spin multiplicity" ("see term symbol"), usually a triplet state. As a result, the energy can become trapped in the triplet state with only quantum mechanically "forbidden" transitions available to return to the lower energy state. These transitions, although "forbidden", will still occur but are kinetically unfavored and thus progress at significantly slower time scales. Most phosphorescent compounds are still relatively fast emitters, with triplet lifetimes on the order of milliseconds. However, some compounds have triplet lifetimes up to minutes or even hours, allowing these substances to effectively store light energy in the form of very slowly degrading excited electron states. If the phosphorescent quantum yield is high, these substances will release significant amounts of light over long time scales, creating so-called "glow-in-the-dark" materials.


:S_0 + h u o S_1 o T_1 o S_0 + h u^prime Where S is a singlet and T a triplet whose subscripts denote states (0 is the ground state, and 1 the excited state). Transitions can also occur to higher energy levels, but the first excited state is denoted for simplicity.

Confusion with chemiluminescence

Some examples of "glow-in-the-dark" materials do not glow because they are phosphorescent. For example, "glow sticks" glow due to a chemiluminescent process which is commonly mistaken for phosphorescence. In chemi-luminescence, an excited state is created via a chemical reaction. The excited state will then transfer to a "dye" molecule, also known as a (sensitizer, or fluorophor), and subsequently fluoresce back to the ground state.

Common components in phosphorescent materials

Common pigments used in phosphorescent materials include zinc sulfide and strontium aluminate. Use of zinc sulfide for safety related products dates back to the 1930s. However, the development of strontium oxide aluminate, with a luminance approximately 10 times greater than zinc sulfide, has relegated most zinc sulfide based products to the novelty category. Strontium oxide aluminate based pigments are now used in exit signs, pathway marking, and other safety related signage. Strontium aluminate based afterglow pigments are marketed under brandnames like Super-LumiNova [ [ RC TRITEC Super-LumiNova] ] [ [ Nemoto & Co., Ltd LumiNova] ] or NoctiLumina. [ [ NoctiLumina company website] ]


*Phosphorescence is a recurrent symbol used by the writer D. H. Lawrence
*Phosphorescence occurs in the book "Carry On, Mr. Bowditch"

ee also

* Phosphor


External links

* [ Phosphorescence on Scienceworld]
* [ The Cathode Ray Tube site]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • phosphorescence — [ fɔsfɔresɑ̃s ] n. f. • 1784; de phosphore 1 ♦ Cour. Luminescence du phosphore (⇒ chimioluminescence). 2 ♦ (1861) Phys. Propriété qu ont certains corps d émettre, sous l excitation de radiations (visibles ou non) et sans dégagement sensible de… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Phosphorescence — Phos phor*es cence, n. [Cf. F. phosphorescence.] 1. The quality or state of being phosphorescent; or the act of phosphorescing. [1913 Webster] 2. A phosphoric light. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • phosphorescence — 1796; see PHOSPHORESCENT (Cf. phosphorescent) + ENCE (Cf. ence) …   Etymology dictionary

  • phosphorescence — ► NOUN 1) light emitted by a substance without combustion or perceptible heat. 2) Physics the emission of radiation in a similar manner to fluorescence but continuing after excitation ceases. DERIVATIVES phosphoresce verb phosphorescent adjective …   English terms dictionary

  • phosphorescence — [fäs΄fə res′əns] n. [Fr: see PHOSPHORUS & ESCENCE] 1. a) the condition or property of a substance of giving off a lingering emission of light after exposure to radiant energy, as light or X rays b) the light thus given off 2. a continuing… …   English World dictionary

  • Phosphorescence — On nomme phosphorescence le phénomène observé lorsqu une matière continue à émettre de la lumière après avoir été éclairée. Le terme signifie approximativement illuminer comme le phosphore. Le phosphore blanc donne en effet de la lumière dans le… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • phosphorescence — /fos feuh res euhns/, n. 1. the property of being luminous at temperatures below incandescence, as from slow oxidation in the case of phosphorus or after exposure to light or other radiation. 2. a luminous appearance resulting from this. 3. any… …   Universalium

  • PHOSPHORESCENCE — n. f. T. de Chimie Propriété qu’ont certains corps de dégager de la lumière dans l’obscurité, sans chaleur ni combustion sensible. La phosphorescence du bois pourri, du ver luisant. Il se dit aussi de la Propriété qu’ont quelques corps d’émettre… …   Dictionnaire de l'Academie Francaise, 8eme edition (1935)

  • phosphorescence — (fo sfo rè ssan s ) s. f. 1°   Propriété qu ont certains corps de briller dans l obscurité, sans répandre de chaleur sensible, d un éclat plus ou moins vif, à la manière du phosphore. La phosphorescence des vers luisants.    Phénomène remarquable …   Dictionnaire de la Langue Française d'Émile Littré

  • phosphorescence — fosforescencija statusas T sritis fizika atitikmenys: angl. phosphorescence vok. Phosphoreszenz, f rus. фосфоресценция, f pranc. phosphorescence, f …   Fizikos terminų žodynas

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”