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A Guide to Pulsed Light Measurement Systems

Also called strobe, pulsed, or blinking lights, “flashing lights” is a term used to describe the rapid, repeated changes in brightness of light over time. Some pulsed light sources are manufactured with fixed frequency and duration features, and many are controlled by programmable power supplies that change frequency, duration, and amplitude. In order to narrow down a system for the measurement of pulsed light, one must become familiar with the parameters of the sources’ output.

Generally, frequency of a pulse of light is defined in terms of Hertz (Hz), serving as the SI base unit utilized to outline cycles per second. Meanwhile, pulse duration is the interval between the time the pulse reaches a certain level of amplitude, and the time the pulse drops on the last transition back to the same level. For further context, the amplitude is the maximum or peak output during a pulse which can be expressed in optical units like lux, W/cm2, Watts, candela, and various others.

Pulsed light is used in a wide range of applications because of the various benefits it offers users. For instance, it provides a means for safety/hazard warnings and has the ability to penetrate surfaces for UV curing and phototherapy uses. Moreover, in germicidal applications, pulsed light can minimize damage to materials while simultaneously eliminating microbes. To better understand the advantages of using pulsed light, we will take a more in-depth look at how it works in the aforementioned applications, as well as in a few others.

UV Curing

Pulse UV lamps are designed to provide high intensity bursts of UV light with greater delivery speeds and lower temperatures. As such, pulsed light is more advantageous in curing applications when compared to continuous light. In applications where heat and prolonged exposure to UV light could damage a product, pulsed light is the perfect solution. Furthermore, pulsed light has the capacity to deliver light at high peak power for deeper penetration.

Aircraft Anti-Collision Lighting

In general, FAA regulations require that a majority of aircraft feature exterior lighting that allows other aircraft to see them. These lights often include red and green positioning lights located on the wings, red beacon lights situated on the top and bottom of the fuselage, as well as flashing white anti-collision strobe lights. The FAA also specifies the minimum intensity of these lights and their flash rate.

Obstruction Lighting

Apart from anti-collision lighting, the FAA has criteria regarding anti-collision lighting on structures over 200 feet AGL (above ground level), some of these structures including buildings, antennas, wind turbines, towers, and equipment to enable aircraft flying overhead to identify any obstructions. For example, the FAA list has requirements for the color, intensity, beam pattern, and sequence of these types of lights.

Safety Hazard Lighting

In applications where gaining attention is critical, pulsed lighting provides greater benefits when compared to CW (continuous wave) light sources. Firstly, temporal modulation, or blinking and flashing lights, is a powerful tool for drawing attention. That being said, pulsed lights are widely adopted by signaling applications for aviation, marine navigation, land transportation, and safety hazard warning systems.

Intense Pulsed Light for Medical Applications

Intense pulsed light (IPL) is frequently utilized for the medical treatment of certain skin conditions such as brown spots, redness, age spots, broken blood vessels, and rosacea, in addition to being used in cosmetic treatments like hair removal. The pulsed light allows for the deep penetration of the skin where a chromophore absorbs the light and kills unwanted cells.

Pulsed Light for Disinfection and Sterilization

Pulsed UV is a go-to choice for disinfection, sterilization, and curing, and it is known for being more effective for curing thicker materials because it offers deeper penetration.

Audience Scanning

Audience scanning lasers are considered special effects lighting systems used to increase audience stimulation, provide a feeling of inclusion, and promote a higher level of audience attention and satisfaction.


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About Author - Charles Howard

Charles Howard is a passionate aviation enthusiast with over 15 years of experience in the industry. Holding a degree in Aerospace Engineering, Charles has worked with some of the top aerospace companies and has been involved in various groundbreaking projects that have shaped modern aviation.

Currently Charles is leading the content marketing team at NSN Sphere. Charles's passion for writing is matched only by his commitment to delivering value to his readers. His blogs are known for their clarity, creativity, and ability to distill complex topics into easily digestible and enjoyable reads.


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