Incandescent light bulbs are one of the major inventions that revolutionized human life and gave way to further growth and technological development. They have been used for decades, and now, as the mammoth task of energy conservation plagues us, such traditional light bulbs are facing the threat of being banned.
It is a fact that prior to Joseph Wilson Swan and Thomas Edison, two pioneers of light bulb research and invention, there were many other scientists who worked on improving the design and construction of light bulbs. However, since Edison’s invention was the most modified, energy efficient and low cost, his patented light bulb became very popular. Moreover, there have been many cases filed on the issue light bulb patents, and many people are of the opinion that there is no fixed answer to who invented the light bulb. However, others consider Thomas Edison the inventor, as he is said to have presented the most economical model and got it patented first.
The commercialization of light bulbs has been phenomenal in the last century, probably because the requirement of light is a basic need in daily life. Incandescent light bulbs are used extensively in home lighting, and it is difficult to imagine a place without these bulbs.
Working of Incandescent Light Bulbs
Put simply, incandescent light bulbs are glass bulbs that glow after being heated. They are also known as filament bulbs, because they contain a filament that glows after being heated to very high temperatures. They consist of a glass enclosure that contains a tungsten wire as a metal filament. The glass mount that supports the filament is connected to the base of the bulb, which, in turn, consists of the insulation, a cap, and an electrical contact point.
Electricity is passed through the wire causing the filament to heat up to 2,000 °K to 3,000 °K. As the filament heats up, it emits a visible light spectrum. However, energy is also emitted in the form of heat. The reason behind selecting tungsten as the metal filament is that it has an extremely high melting point. Light bulbs are covered with a glass enclosure for two major reasons. A glass enclosure safeguards people and things from the hot temperature of the filament. Moreover, at such high temperatures, if the filament is left in the open air, it will oxidize when it comes in contact with oxygen. That is why the glass enclosures are filled with an inert gas, mostly argon, to enhance safety.
Are Incandescent Bulbs Banned?
The low cost of operation and easy construction have bolstered the growth of incandescent bulbs in the past years. However, due to their high energy usage, they have faced stiff bans from governments in several countries. In the last five to six years, compact fluorescent lamps (CFL), LED lights, and other similar light bulbs have become extremely popular. Incandescent light bulb laws have already been announced in the US, and by 2014 these bulbs will be replaced by other energy-efficient sources.
On the other hand, these traditional light bulbs are easy to build, have low operating costs and are free of mercury. CFLs contain mercury (that makes it a hazardous waste), and this has been a major reason for the stiff resistance to these banning policies. Nevertheless, it seems that almost all countries are giving more importance to adopting fluorescent lights. More research and study is required to understand the best option.
The US Environmental Protection Agency promotes a website called Earth911, where consumers can seek relevant information for recycling certain materials, based on zip code and location. However, surprisingly, incandescent bulbs aren’t in the list. This is due to the fact that a broken or burned out incandescent bulb is of no use. It can’t be recycled or reused. So the only way out is to reduce its consumption. This can be done by ensuring that you switch off the lights while leaving a room and using the bulbs only when necessary. Also, the option of replacing these bulbs with CFLs, which have a life span of 10 years, has become a popular trend.
Incandescent light bulbs, one of the greatest inventions of mankind, will be, for sure, phased out, in the coming years. Phasing out of such light bulbs is also an example of the fact that with changing times, society has to change its lifestyle and adopt green living fundamentals. That, I guess, is the mantra for survival. Edison would not have loved the banning of his invention, but the world is changing, and needs are changing, and we have to adopt new ways to survive.