A florescent light uses low pressure gas to start an arc discharge.   A starter 
interrupts an electrical inductor
to produce a high voltage impulse to get it started.  Heaters are also employed 
at each end of the tube to get
the arc started.   Mercury is added because of its low ionization potential.  
The tube must be next to a 
grounded plate because the arc starts in a wave across the tube.  Newer 
versions employ higher frequencies to
get the arc started.  

Rossi's arc operates at a fraction of a volt.  Erika!  He has also invented a 
new form of glow discharge lighting.

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