Fluorescence

Fluorescent minerals emit visible light when exposed to ultraviolet.
Fluorescent marine organisms
Fluorescent clothes used in black light theater production, Prague

Fluorescence is one of two kinds of emission of light by a substance that has absorbed light or other electromagnetic radiation. Fluorescence involves no change in electron spin multiplicity and generally it immediately follows absorption; phosphorescence involves spin change and is delayed. Thus fluorescent materials generally cease to glow nearly immediately when the radiation source stops, while phosphorescent materials, which continue to emit light for some time after.

Fluorescence is a form of luminescence. In most cases, the emitted light has a longer wavelength, and therefore a lower photon energy, than the absorbed radiation. A perceptible example of fluorescence occurs when the absorbed radiation is in the ultraviolet region of the electromagnetic spectrum (invisible to the human eye), while the emitted light is in the visible region; this gives the fluorescent substance a distinct color that can only be seen when the substance has been exposed to UV light.

Fluorescence has many practical applications, including mineralogy, gemology, medicine, chemical sensors (fluorescence spectroscopy), fluorescent labelling, dyes, biological detectors, cosmic-ray detection, vacuum fluorescent displays, and cathode-ray tubes. Its most common everyday application is in (gas-discharge) fluorescent lamps and LED lamps, in which fluorescent coatings convert UV or blue light into longer-wavelengths resulting in white light which can even appear indistinguishable from that of the traditional but energy- inefficient incandescent lamp.

Fluorescence also occurs frequently in nature in some minerals and in many biological forms across all kingdoms of life. The latter may be referred to as biofluorescence, indicating that the fluorophore is part of or is extracted from a living organism (rather than an inorganic dye or stain). But since fluorescence is due to a specific chemical, which can also be synthesized artificially in most cases, it is sufficient to describe the substance itself as fluorescent.