Invention of the electric bulb: Let there be light!

Light bulb infographic

Brilliant minds at work: after the wheel, the light bulb!

In comic strips, characters’ bright ideas are often symbolized by a light bulb, and for good reason! Can you think of many inventions that have revolutionized the processes of building design, business creation, and have facilitated advancements in the field of energy?

Electricity transmission lines, power plants, household appliances, electric motors all owe their emergence, in part, to the invention of the electric light bulb and the contributions of numerous inventors.

Examples of scientists and creators? William Sawyer, Albon Man and Joseph Swan
The first two were granted a US patent for the incandescent lamp, while the third received an English patent for his bulb. Alongside others, they contributed significantly to the ongoing development of a vision articulated more than 150 years ago.

The incandescent bulb: a turning point in time

History records that Thomas Edison filed not one, but two patents! First in 1879, then in 1880, before marketing the incandescent bulb. However, long before him, British inventors had demonstrated that electric light was possible thanks to the arc lamp.

So, what is Edison’s contribution? Filament design!

Carbon, platinum, then back to carbon: several tests were necessary to determine the best. Finally, in 1879, Edison’s team produced a light bulb with a carbonized uncoated cotton filament with a lifespan of 14.5 hours. Subsequently, they developed a filament capable of extending the bulbs’ functionality to up to 1200 hours—a remarkable achievement that set the standard for longevity in the following decade.

LED lighting: leading the way to brighter and more economical bulbs!

Today, the light-emitting diode (LED) takes the top spot on the podium of lighting technologies. Often compact (less than a square millimeter), LEDs emit light in a specific direction. The interest? Minimizing the need for reflectors and diffusers that can trap light.

They are also the most efficient lamps available on the market.

But what exactly is luminous efficacy?
It is a measurement of the light emitted (in lumens) divided by the power absorbed (in watts).

A bulb with a luminous efficiency of 100% would achieve 683 lumens per watt (lm/W). For comparison, a typical incandescent bulb has an efficacy of only 15 lm/W, significantly lower than its LED counterpart, which can reach up to 300 lm/W!

Blue: the radiance behind white light

Did you know that quality white lighting is impossible to achieve without the color blue?
Shuji Nakamura’s groundbreaking discovery, which earned him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2014, revolutionized the way we illuminate the world.

Some unusual facts shedding light on the light bulb’s impact!

  • Thomas Edison’s legacy includes more than just the light bulb. He is also credited with inventions such as the carbon telephone transmitter, the phonograph and the alkaline battery.
  • Approximately 8 billion ordinary light bulbs illuminate the world today. With an average output of 40 watts per bulb, they collectively consume around 53 million MW of electricity per day.
  • The Luxor lamp, located in Las Vegas, is equipped with curved mirrors and boasts an astounding 42.3 billion candelas (a unit that measures light intensity). By harnessing the light from 39 xenon lamps, it generates the most potent light beam in the world. The beam is so intense that it can illuminate an item located 16 km away.

Confirmed success, ensured safety?

However, the light bulb can also pose a fire risk in certain situations. Consider this: Have you ever been startled by the heat emanating from a light bulb when touching it? Heat often indicates a potential fire hazard.

And because the experts at CEP Forensic leave no stone unturned, examining bulbs and especially understanding how they work allows us to better shed light on certain building fires. Just like the inventors who came before them, our team possesses a keen eye for detail!

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