A blacklight (or often black light), also referred to as a UV-A light, Wood's lamp, or simply ultraviolet light, is a lamp that emits long-wave (UV-A) ultraviolet light and not much visible light.
One type of lamp has a violet filter material, either on the bulb or in a separate glass filter in the lamp housing, which blocks most visible light and allows through UV, so the lamp has a dim violet glow when operating. Blacklight lamps which have this filter have a lighting industry designation that includes the letters "BLB". This stands for "blacklight blue", which is a contradiction in that they are the type that does not look blue.
A second type of lamp produces ultraviolet but does not have the filter material, so it produces more visible light and has a blue color when operating. These tubes are made for use in "bug zapper" insect traps, and are identified by the industry designation "BL".
Blacklight sources may be specially designed fluorescent lamps, mercury-vapor lamps, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), lasers, or incandescent lamps; although incandescents produce almost no blacklight (except slightly more for halogen types), and so are not considered true blacklight sources. In medicine, forensics, and some other scientific fields, such a light source is referred to as a Wood's lamp, named after Robert Williams Wood who invented the original Wood's glass UV filters.
Although many other types of lamp emit ultraviolet light with visible light, black lights are essential when UV-A light without visible light is needed, particularly in observing fluorescence, the colored glow that many substances emit when exposed to UV. Black lights are employed for decorative and artistic lighting effects, diagnostic and therapeutic uses in medicine, the detection of substances tagged with fluorescent dyes, rock-hunting, the detection of counterfeit money, the curing of plastic resins, attracting insects and the detection of refrigerant leaks affecting refrigerators and air conditioning systems. Strong sources of long-wave ultraviolet light are used in tanning beds. Although the low-power UV-A emitted by black lights is not a hazard to skin or eyes and can be viewed without protection, powerful ultraviolet sources present dangers and require personal protective equipment such as goggles and gloves.