Thanks to the “Ultraviolet Table” exhibit, you will learn about the phenomenon of photoluminescence, i.e. the glowing of bodies as a result of absorption of light energy.
Ultraviolet (UV) is short light waves invisible to the human eye. Some bodies lit by the ultraviolet glow with their own light. This is because the ultraviolet waves strongly excite electrons. The excitation of electrons, i.e. forcing them out of their previous state, takes place during a transfer of energy. When returning to their previous position, electrons must “give off” the excess of this energy somewhere – thus they emit light visible to the naked eye.
Problems with the exhibit:
Technical problem: inadequate lighting obstructing observation
Solution: developing more functional lighting
Ultraviolet LEDs were previously installed in the table top to illuminate objects from below. Visitors were not able to watch the glowing props from the light source side where the effect of luminescence was the most visible. In addition, the use of light sensors triggering the LEDs forced the use of top lighting, which made it difficult to observe the phenomenon.
Therefore, we removed the light sensors and installed two moving rim-shaped LED lamps over the table top, which visitors can use to illuminate the individual objects by themselves. This solution – combined with the lowering of the table height – provides excellent conditions for the observation of the intriguing light effects and guarantees high-quality experience. The effects are spectacular, arouse interest and encourage visitors to further explore the phenomenon.
Interaction problems: a low level of intuitiveness and interactivity
Solution: removing light sensors and introducing a type of lighting that is adequate and requires interaction
In order to activate the exhibit in its previous version, it was necessary to put your hand over the light sensors installed in the table top. We believed that this mechanism would increase the attractiveness of the exhibit. However, this solution made the exhibit unintuitive. Without knowing how to activate the exhibit, some visitors gave up trying to interact with it. Additionally, the exhibit seemed uninteresting due to the lighting issues which weakened light effects and disturbed the perception of the phenomenon.
Therefore, we have installed hand-held lamps that guarantee a higher level of interactivity. Visitors must operate them by themselves in order to illuminate the objects. This increases their engagement and provokes emotions, and the light effects (luminescence), which appear in response to their actions, allow them to better remember the phenomenon they are exploring.
Educational problem: unexploited educational potential of the exhibit
Solution: a more comprehensive presentation of the use of photoluminescence in various fields
The first version of the “Ultraviolet Table” was designed for the Lightzone exhibition, whose narration was based on a criminal story. Thus, when the exhibit was being designed, the main emphasis was put on presenting the phenomenon of photoluminescence in the context of forensic research – hence the slightly monothematic selection of accessories with fingerprints covered in a fluorescent substance. In the new version of the exhibit, we wanted it to have greater thematic diversity and present a wider spectrum of application of the phenomenon. We, therefore, replaced some of the criminal props with other objects. New accessories include a bottle of tonic, which contains ultraviolet-reactive quinine, a cooler liquid with a fluorescent pigment, fluorescent ink markers and naturally occurring phosphorous minerals. Thanks to these changes, we can now learn that photoluminescence is used not only in forensic science but also in industry, diagnostics and research on new medical therapies, as well as for aesthetic effects. Additionally, we took care to make the exhibit easier to understand – the description of the observed phenomenon was expanded to include a board showing a plan of the distribution of individual objects on the table. Thanks to these treatments, the exhibit is now more understandable and visually attractive and, above all, is characterised by a high educational value.
During the modernisation works, we made sure that our table – a classic exhibit on the subject of the ultraviolet – looked differently from similar exhibits in other centres of science in the world. Above all, we tried to design and construct it in such a way that it would meet the criteria of a good exhibit: be functional, intuitive, aesthetic and – most importantly – of high educational value, i.e. so that it would present the phenomenon in a precise and understandable way. And we succeeded in doing so!
The exhibit, equipped with a glass top, will return to the exhibition space on 5 April 2018 after the opening of the newly modernised eastern part of the 1st floor.