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A flashlight (also called an electric torch or torch) is a portable electric spotlight which emits light from a small incandescent lightbulb, or from one or more light-emitting diodes (LEDs). The light source is mounted in a housing which contains a parabolic reflector, a clear protective lens, a power source (typically electric batteries), and an electric power switch.
While most flashlights are intended to be held in the hand, there are also helmet-mounted flashlights designed for miners and campers. Some types of flashlights can be powered by hand-cranked dynamos, electromagnetic induction or recharged by solar power.
The name flashlight is used mainly in the United States and Canada. In other English-speaking countries, the more common term is torch or electric torch.
Recently, flashlights which use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) instead of conventional lightbulbs have become available.
LEDs can be significantly more efficient at lower power levels and so use less battery energy than ordinary lightbulbs. Such flashlights have longer battery lifetimes, in some cases hundreds of hours, although the LED efficiency advantage diminishes at higher power levels. LEDs also survive sharp blows that often break conventional lightbulbs.
LED flashlights are often electronically regulated to maintain constant light output as the batteries fade. By contrast a non-regulated flashlight becomes progressively dimmer, sometimes spending much of the total running time below 50 percent brightness level.
A headlamp is a flashlight worn on the head for hands-free operation. Powerful headlamps mounted on helmets have been used in mining for decades, but general-purpose ones with fabric straps are now also available.
Most flashlights are cylindrical in design, with the lamp assembly attached to one end. However, early designs came in a variety of shapes.