A discharge lamp has a glass or silica envelope containing two metal electrodes separated by a gas. Gases used include, neon , argon , xenon , sodium , metal halide , and mercury . The core operating principle is much the same as the carbon arc lamp, but the term 'arc lamp' is normally used to refer to carbon arc lamps, with more modern types of gas discharge lamp normally called discharge lamps. With some discharge lamps, very high voltage is used to strike the arc. This requires an electrical circuit called an igniter, which is part of the ballast circuitry. After the arc is struck, the internal resistance of the lamp drops to a low level, and the ballast limits the current to the operating current. Without a ballast, excess current would flow, causing rapid destruction of the lamp.