Full Spectrum Light: What is it?

Light, as we see it, is electromagnetic radiation that’s visible to the human eye. It’s the part of the electromagnetic spectrum we call “visible light”.

The electromagnetic spectrum is the range of all frequencies, or wavelengths, of electromagnetic radiation – from very low energy frequencies like radio waves, to radiation with very high-energy frequencies such as gamma rays.

Sunlight is described as full-spectrum light and includes the range of wavelengths necessary to sustain life on Earth: infrared, visible and ultraviolet (UV).

The human eye only responds to the visible light component, which lies between infrared and ultraviolet radiation, and emits tiny wavelengths – just 400 to 700 nanometers (nanometer = billionth of a meter).

full spectrum lighting - visible lightVisible light includes the spectrum of seven color bands produced when sunlight is refracted through a prism: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

The term full-spectrum was coined by photobiologist, Dr. John Ott, in the 1960s to describe electric light sources that simulate the visible and ultraviolet (UV) spectrum of natural light. Lighting products labelled as full-spectrum simulate daylight and promote the same health benefits of natural sunlight in people, animals and plants.

Natural daylight (sunlight) is considered full spectrum lighting although the range is affected by the time of day, cloud cover and tilt of the earth. Full spectrum is a word used in the lighting industry to suggest that a bulb will produce a natural light. While color temperature and the color rendering index (CRI) are the standards for measuring the color production of a light bulb, full spectrum lighting is simply an all inclusive catch phrase.

Benefits and Uses of Full Spectrum Lighting

  • For an art museum or an artist’s studio, it is critical to be able to differentiate every hue. And in order to do so, you need a light source that can provide all those colors. Many artists use full spectrum bulbs in their studios so that their paint colors stay true to form when moved into a gallery or home.
  • Color matching specialists use full spectrum bulbs to ensure paint tints come out okay when mixing indoors.
  • Full spectrum lighting aids indoor gardens and nurseries to grow plants by simulating natural daylight.
  • Full lighting spectrum is to help treat seasonal affective disorder (a disease that causes deep depression due to the lack of sun light).
  • Aviarys and commercial poultry producers, aware of the ways that lighting contributes to fertility and production.

So when you see the term “full spectrum”, you’ll know exactly what it means.