Evolution of the Light Bulb | From Sticks & Flames to Light Emitting Diode

Imagine a world without light… Now consider what the world was like before 400,000 BC when homo erectus found the groundbreaking invention that we now know as fire. Since then, lighting technology has evolved significantly, to what it is today. We use light in a vast majority of our daily activities, and it’s hard to imagine a world that we cannot light up with a simple flip a switch.

At First Light

Long before the invention of light switches and bulbs, humans found fire – probably by accident – and had the bright idea to light up sticks, which they would carry as we carry torches today. Of course, it was much more primitive in style than the Olympic torch and definitely the solar torch we know today.

The first oil lamps were invented in around 70,000 BC. Made from hollow shells or stones, these ‘lamps’ were filled with animal fat or moss.

Modern Lighting Technology

Fast track to more modern days – 1835, to be specific – British inventors demonstrated the arc lamp, proving that electric light was possible. Scientists from around the world collaborated on the incandescent lamp, the filament and the atmosphere of the bulb for many years, but alas, it used too much energy and was just too expensive.

Finally, in 1880, Thomas Edison commercialised the incandescent lamp.

Evolution of Lighting in the 1900s

In the early 1900s, Peter Cooper Hewitt who invented the precursor to what we know as the fluorescent lamp.

Between 1920-1940, European researchers experimented with phosphor coated neon tubes, which were rapidly adopted due to the fact that fluorescent lamps were significantly more energy-efficient than incandescent bulb.

During the 1973 oil crises and energy shortage, lighting engineers started working on developing miniaturized fluorescent bulbs for residential application. However, it was Edward Hammer from General Electric who finally created the compact fluorescent light (CFL) in 1976.

In the mid-80’s, compact fluorescent light prices would range anywhere from $25 to $35, a cost that precluded a large cross section of consumers. In addition, CFLs were quite bulky and did not fit into fixtures. Another major annoyance was the fact that CFLs performed inconsistently and had a low light output.

However, CFL bulbs have evolved since the early days. Modern CFL bulbs offer much better performance at a much lower price. With 75% better energy efficiency and approximately ten times the lifespan of incandescent lights, they are well worth the current price, which is approximately $1.74 per ENERGY STAR® rated CFL bulb, bought in value packs.

The Birth of Light Emitting Diode (LED) Bulbs

Light-emitting diode (or LED) is probably the fastest developing lighting technology today. LED bulbs converts electricity into light using a semiconductor. Light is emitted in a specific direct, which reduces the need for diffusers and reflectors that might trap light.

LEDs have luminous efficacy, which makes them the most efficient light on the market. However, the secret to energy saving lighting extends beyond just replacing your old bulbs with LED. Invest in a modern LED lighting system to take full advantage of the energy saving power of Light Emitting Diode.