Fluorescent lights in the Westford Academy science wing were checked for the presence of mercury. A spectrometer was used instead of a physical means, since this is the most economical and efficient solution. The wavelengths of the lines seen when the spectroscopes were pointed at the desired fluorescent lights were recorded and compared with the spectrum of mercury. Using this method, no conclusive evidence implying that mercury is present in the lights was obtained, and the lights need not be replaced due to fear of mercury.
While replacing the fluorescent lights at Westford Academy, some of the janitors made mistakes that led to a mix-up of the old lights with the new ones. The primary difference between the old and new lights is that the old lights contain quite toxic mercury, while the new ones do not. Since mercury is quite toxic and the old lights are bound to fail eventually, it is unwise to leave the present situation as it is.
The Chemical Magicians have been requested to develop a method of checking the lights in the science wing of Westford Academy for the presence of mercury. Since breaking the lights open to detect mercury is both economically inadvisable as it leads to destruction of the lights as well as unsafe, due to mercury's toxicity, handheld diffraction grating spectrometers will be used to measure the emission spectra of the fluorescent lights and find out, based on this spectrum, if any contain mercury.
[...] If mercury is indeed present, lines from the spectrum of mercury will also be present in the spectrum of the light Results Observations The four lights examined were directly outside the AP Chemistry room. Of these examined, the spectra were fairly similar. Due to errors in the readings of the first spectroscope in the blue spectrum, discussed below, the ranges are quite large, but become smaller when this spectroscope is removed. The wavelength of blue light ranged from 479nm to 529nm; if the first spectroscope is taken out, the range becomes 479nm to 499nm, considerably smaller. [...]
[...] Therefore, the conclusion is that the emission spectra for mercury are unique from any other gas that would be present in a fluorescent light. This is important since it allows the presence of mercury to be detected. A light with mercury would display the spectrum of mercury in addition to or instead of displaying the spectrum of another element. Secondly, handheld spectrometers are relatively cheap compared to that other alternative. All would agree that buying a few small spectrometers is more cost-effective than destroying all the lights present at Westford Academy and buying them again. [...]
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