Incandescent Light Bulb

June 1, 2022

Incandescent Light Bulb

It is a fact that the incandescent light bulb changed the world. Incandescent light bulbs were the first generation of light bulb to be manufactured economically for residential use. In 1880, cities began to light their streets, homes, and businesses with electricity. The use of candles soon became a light source only needed for emergencies.

Development of the Incandescent Light Bulb

One of the founding fathers of the incandescent light bulb was Thomas Edison. Thomas Edison did not personally invent the light bulb, rather he expanded on the scientific discoveries made by other inventors such as Benjamin Franklin and Humphry Davy. Edison’s goal was to provide affordable long-term lighting to the masses. Before Edison’s astounding breakthrough the lifespan of an average light bulb was a dismal 13.5 hours, but that was about to change.

Edison’s incandescent light bulbs functioned by funneling electricity through a vacuumed sealed glass bulb. The electricity traveled up a wire and through a filament made of carbonized bamboo. The electricity then passed out the end of the bamboo which heated the filament to produce electric light. The result was the birth of the first generation of the modern incandescent light bulb.

In 1880 Thomas Edison’s company began providing electricity and lighting to residential homes. Direct Currant is the electrical system that Edison designed for the city of New York. Read more about Direct Current here. At this point the Edison incandescent light bulb could now function up to 1,200 hours before needing a replacement. The public was ecstatic over this new revolutionary technology.

Perfecting of the Incandescent Light Bulb

Twenty-six years later Thomas Edison’s company, General Electric, under the guidance of William Coolidge, an American physicist and engineer, made advances to replace the bamboo filament with tungsten. The melting point for tungsten is 3,422°C (6191°F) therefore it was assumed that tungsten was the best filament for the light bulb. But there was a problem with the ability to melt down such a hard metal to be flexible and thin enough to conduct electricity. William Coolidge soon discovered that combining tungsten with mercury would produce a thin mailable wire capable of conducting electricity in a vacuum sealed light bulb. This new advancement could power a light bulb for 1,800 – 2400 hours.

Efficiency of the Incandescent Light Bulb

Incandescent Light Bulb

We have known for a long time that the incandescent light bulb is not very efficient. A staggering 90% of the electricity sent to the incandescent light bulb discharges as heat, with only 10% of the energy being used to produce light. In 2014 Canada began to phase out the use of incandescent light bulbs. The new preferred light bulb changed to fluorescent technology which you can read more about here . Fluorescent light bulbs last up to 10,000 hours and are far more efficient than incandescent light bulbs. Today fluorescent bulbs have taken a back seat to LED (Light Emitting Diodes) light bulbs which use even less energy and last up to 25,000 hours.

We can all agree that the light bulb has changed the world. Even though the incandescent light bulb is no longer as relevant, it was a steppingstone that led engineers to design brighter and more energy efficient light bulbs. Every bright idea must start somewhere.

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