When renowned American inventor Thomas Edison managed to create a working incandescent light bulb and mass produce it, he was actually the first of almost two dozen before him to successfully set one up. The first lightbulb to ever be manufactured at a large scale, the incandescent light bulb is something most of us can remember fairly well. Whilst the ones we grew up with are certainly different to the first one ever created, the technology behind it barely changed for over a century.
A bulb with an electric light with a wire filament running down the middle of it, it was then heated to such a high temperature that it glows with visible light, known as incandescence. The filament itself was heated by any electric current that would go through it. To prevent any type of oxidation and loss of efficiency, the incandescent light bulb’s glad would be made of quartz and the inside gases evacuated via vacuum.
This last part is what managed to separate Edison from the rest of the pack, as he managed to more efficiently reduce the amount of inert gases in the lightbulb than his other fellow inventors. Whilst the first prototype he unveiled to the public was in 1879, Edison’s incandescent bulb has continued to be a major part of households around the world until very recently – albeit with some minor changes, namely regarding size, voltage and efficiency.
In modern days, the incandescent light bulb has slipped to the wayside as consumers prefer the more eco-friendly and longer lasting bulbs on the market, but you can still find almost anywhere. The fluorescent lamps or and light-emitting diode lamps you commonly find in your local hardware store are fairly different to the original lightbulbs, and lack a lot of the properties that made the first one the ground-breaking invention it was – which for many, is why it is time for it to retire.
In some places around the world, such as the European Union, China, Canada and United States are currently in the process of phasing out the sale and use of incandescent light bulbs, whilst many others including Columbia, Brazil and Mexico have banned them outright. This is due to the fact that incandescent bulbs are much less efficient and typically have short lifetimes than their modern counterparts with around 1,000 hours for home light bulbs versus typically 10,000 hours for compact fluorescents and 30,000 hours for lighting LEDs.